Wednesday, November 30, 2011

There's nothing better...

...than goodies from home!  Got this in the mail today.  I am a lucky girl.  It came complete with adorable ornaments: a bird from Pottery Barn, a wintery moon and some sparkly keys.  I also got plenty of yummy baking supplies in there so that I can make my favorite Christmas cookies this year.  Can't beat that!

And see the beautiful boxes full of delicious looking English toffee?  Well, that comes from my family's wonderful little candy company.  Elaine was my beautiful grandmother and this is from her secret family recipe.  It is absolutely to die for!  Plus, if you call to place your order, you may just get my grandfather on the line! ;-)  It makes the perfect little gift for a teacher, hostess or anyone special!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gemütlichkeit giveaway #1!!!! Yaaay!

I am super excited to announce the first ever Gemütlichkeit giveaway!!!  This comes to you courtesy of my beautiful and super-talented mama!  She hand makes these beautiful gift tags and is giving this whole set of Christmas tags to one of you!  Aren't they adorable???

These dress up any packages and would even make a box wrapped in a brown paper bag look chic.  It's time to ditch those sticky labels!  Win these and you will have the most beautifully wrapped packages ever this Christmas.

All you have to do to get them is leave me a comment about your favorite Christmas tradition.  I will randomly choose and announce a winner on Tuesday next week!  (You will receive the labels about a week later, or two weeks later if you are international.)

Good luck and please spread the word!  And kudos to my mommy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weekend recap and 1st Advent

I hope everyone had a really amazing holiday weekend.  Mine was quite nice.  I ate a whole lot of turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie and drank a lot of Glühwein.  Plus, the Christmas market opened this weekend.  It's been super festive around here. 

I also started decorating for Christmas.  
And Sunday was the First Advent here.  It's such a wonderful time, so relaxing and family-oriented.  Peter's been working for the past 6 days so I was alone, but I enjoyed it by my faux fireplace (above), Thanksgiving leftovers and a Glühwein.  

I hope you also had a wonderful holiday weekend.  Back to real life now.  But, Christmas is on it's way!  Yippee!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lovely Friday evening

After a long week, which included both Thanksgiving and a full work schedule there is no better way to spend the evening than with a leftover turkey sandwich (turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and stuffing), a mug of Glühwein and the Thanksgiving episode of New Girl. (Seriously, where can I get her hair?!?! It's freakin' amazing!)

The Christmas market opened today and I can't wait to go tomorrow and get into the Christmasy spirit.  I already started putting up decorations today.  Yes!

Food on Friday: Thanksgiving Feast

I thought I would share a few pictures from my Thanksgiving dinner last night with you.  It was so nice and relaxing and was a wonderful meal.  As always, the turkey could have been more moist and the there could have been improvements to everything, but, really, it was just like Thanksgiving should be--more about the company than the food.  I just missed my P and my family.  I wish they all could have been there. 
A place setting. 

The table. I used a green runner, three pumpkins and 6 votives.

Another table shot.

The living room ready for company.

The spread...buffet made from my desk. See my beautiful grandmas in the background?

I did a small dinner this year, minus the yams and green beans which I really missed.  I did my apple, onion and walnut salad, stiffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and turkey.  Plus, homemade pumpkin pie.  :-)

My guests, my boyfriend's parents and my second family, piling up their plates. 
It was a wonderful day and a beautiful feast.  I have so much to be thankful for.  Now I am ready to get geared up for Christmas! Have a wonderful and relaxing holiday weekend!

Thankful Thursdays + Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi Everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are now adequately (and maybe uncomfortably) stuffed with turkey, stuffing, yams and pumpkin pie.  I myself had a really great Thanksgiving and spent it with my "in-laws."  I made the simple version of Thanksgiving this year, but still ended up with a couple hours' worth of dishes. 

Now, I am exhausted but satisfied.  I have yummy food in my belly, a beautiful home, friends and two wonderful families.  All of this makes me feel very grateful. 

So, for my last Thankful Thursdays post, I thought that I would tell you the few things that I am really, really thankful for this whole year.

People are by far, the most important aspect of my life.  I love the people in my life and have always felt really blessed to have them. I don't know, but I guess it takes a little bit of distance to really see what you have and how lucky you are and I learned that lesson when I arrived here in Germany.  The people in your life, your friends and family are priceless; cherish them. 

So, first and foremost, I am thankful for Peter.  He is my best friend.  He knows me better than anyone and loved my stinky, blistered feet when we met on the Camino; he loved the no-makeup me.  He makes me laugh and he makes my heart sing.  And last night he looked into my eyes and told me how much  he loves me.  I am such a lucky girl. 

I am thankful for my family.  We are beautiful and tight-knit and we love each other a lot.  We are all healthy (espeically my dad)  and my family makes me feel complete. 

Additionally, I am very appreciative of my German family, my in-laws.  They are amazing people who love me as if I were their own child.  They are always there for me and I love them, too!

I also feel really thankful for my childhood best friend and FFF, Danu.  She's a beautiful, inspiring woman and we have so much in common.   It couldn't be more fun to hang out with her and she is always there for me when I need her. 

Last but not least, I get to all of my friends!  I am so grateful for them all and for you all.  I have such strong, inspiring people in my life and I feel lucky everyday to have so much love come my way.  Ben, my awesome bestie who I need on a daily basis and who often needs me.  Brittany, my other amazing childhood friend who is always wacky with me, but is also a great listener and a loyal friend.  The Fab Five, my high school group.  The Boat House, my college friends, and so much more!  I am a lucky girl...I am lucky because I have all the love a girl could want.  I feel so grateful that all these people are in my life.  I wish I was at one big Thanksgiving table with all of them now!

Enjoy your feast and your day and give and get a little love!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Autumn arrangement

Flame colored flowers, red berries and pumpkins make for a beautiful harvest arrangement. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving nostalgia

A beautiful table top from Pottery Barn via Pinterest

I thought about doing a post about centerpieces today, but wasn't that inspired quite honestly.  The truth is, I am having a hard time getting into the Thanksgiving spirit when people here are already putting up their Christmas trees and are completely clueless about the big day.  I went grocery shopping for my food yesterday, but the boyfriend won't even be here Thursday (and I have to work a half day) so there is really nothing festive about it. 

So,  I have found myself pining for all the familiar sights, smells and feelings that make this one of my favorite holidays.  Instead of Christmas trees, I want to see pumpkins, Indian corn and the lingering colors of fall.  I would love to have my (slightly) neurotic mom giving me a list of things to clean before guests arrive.  I dream about a "Thanksgiving outfit"--you know, that special skirt or blouse you bought sometime in the fall but saved especially to wear to Thanksgiving dinner. 

So here is my list.  This is what makes Thanksgiving what it is to me and what I miss greatly at the moment. 

1.  Martinelli's Sparkling Cider (because the number of years that I was not allowed to drink alcohol on Thanksgiving greatly outnumber the number of years I have been able to).  I usually drink too much too fast until my tummy hurts. 

2. Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, the best Thanksgiving dinner roll ever.  My sister and I always used to fight for the last.  

3.  Bell's Poultry Seasoning.

4.  My dad putting in the first Christmas CD of the season.

5.  My grandfather cutting the turkey with his electric knife and my mom complaining about how she made it too dry.   It never is, but she is always a critic. 

6.  The parade! Oh how I miss and love the parade. 

7.  Two kinds of pie: pumpkin and apple and eating them both. 

8. Feeling so full it hurts. 

9.  Cinnamon rolls the next morning. 

10.  Putting an olive on each finger and then tricking my dad (every year) into holding our olive-martian fingers at grace.  

11.  The calm, happy, satisfied feeling when you get into bed that night knowing you just made your tummy happy and spent time with people you love. 

I hope you have a lot of great comforts waiting for you this Thanksgiving.  Comment with a list of your own Thanksgiving traditions or memories.  I would love to hear about what makes the holiday for you!


If you want some centerpiece inspiration, take a look at these websites.

A recent post on using acorns and nuts in centerpieces. 

Martha's a genius, as always.   I particularly like the lower, simpler centerpieces

Non-traditional centerpieces from Cupcakes and Cashmere. 

And my plan for centerpieces this year: scattered votives and small pumpkins on the table.  I have found amazingly colored pumpkins this year that I really want to showcase. 

Something a little like what I want to do only I am looking for mine to be a little more simplistic.  From HGTV via Pinterest.

Monday, November 21, 2011

3 yummy mashed potato tricks

Creamy mashed potatoes
I have always loved mashed potatoes.  They are one of my favorite comfort foods and something I often make here in Germany.  The ingredients are easy to find (unlike baking ingredients) and the boyfriend has become a big fan.  I have a couple of really simple tricks for super delicious mashed potatoes if you are looking for a way to improve your Thanksgiving standby:

1)  Do not for a second think about calories or fat.  If you are going to make mashed potatoes, make them right.  Even thinking about a non or low-fat version is an injustice to this beautiful creation. There is no point in eating them if they aren't swimming in butter, cream, milk, mayonnaise (see tip 2 below) and other deliciousness.  So, don't make them too often and when you do make them, pile all the good stuff in there.

2) Keeping tip 1 in mind,  use a little mayonnaise in your mashed potatoes.  Yes, I said mayonnaise.  I know this sounds weird and gross but it is the trick to super creamy and just slightly tangy spuds.  Be careful, because you don't want your potatoes to actually taste like mayonnaise.  Add a little at a time, always err on the side of caution and be sure to taste.  When you taste a slight tang but no "mayonnaisey" flavor, stop.  Don't tell anyone what's in them, especially not anyone who hates mayonnaise or anyone who failed to heed tip 1 above.

3) Caramelized onions.  This is my favorite trick for adding a little extra flavor to my mashed potatoes.  As I got older I found that they tasted more and more bland.  Then one day, I caramelized some onions and mixed them into finished mashed potatoes and I pretty much fell in love.  Since then, I have added caramelized onions into every batch of mashed potatoes I have made and they have always been a big hit.  I add just enough so that you get one to two onions in every bite.  Yum!
(Note, this probably won't be a hit in a household with picky children.  I know it wouldn't have worked in my house when I was younger.)

Mashed potatoes with caramelized onions (and fried chicken).  :-)

So put your cardiologist on speed dial, and enjoy Thanksgiving for once.  You spend the whole year trying to treat yourself right.  Doesn't it feel good to be bad once and a while?

In honor of Thanksgiving week...

Autumn scene from a few weeks ago.  Brings to mind images of Thanksgiving.
Hi friends!  Did you have a good weekend?  I sure did.  Of course, it flew always does.  Peter was home which was amazing.  He got a surprise visit from our friend Nico (remember my birthday surprise?) and we spent all day Sunday on our living room floor, watching re-runs of Big Bang Theory and catching up on Grey's Anatomy.  (Okay, I caught up on Grey's Anatomy; he played strange fantasy games on his PlayStation.  Boys.)  How depressing was the last episode? Seriously?!

Then late last night (after I was all depressed about poor Henry) I realized that it was the beginning of Thanksgiving week--in my opinion the best week of the entire year.  Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  Christmas in the U.S. can be too hectic, materialistic and all about keeping up with the Joneses.  Thanksgiving, however,  is a cozy family holiday centered around being grateful for the blessings in your life and spending time with people you love.  It's by far my favorite holiday and the most beautiful and simple holiday in America.  So, yesterday, I had a little breakdown when I realized that everyone else is traveling home this week, buying turkey and making pies and I am stuck in a completely normal work week.

My Thanksgiving dinner in Germany last year.
I am not going to lie to you: I cried.  I sat in bed last night and I cried my eyes out to poor Peter, who looked at me helplessly (but sweetly gave me lots of hugs and kisses).  It made me so sad to think about everyone on her the home for Thanksgiving, everyone sitting around a table, eating stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes.   My heart is there but I am here, a busy week of work ahead of me, no one even knowing that it is a really special week for Americans.  How sad, right? 

What we woke up to on Thanksgiving morning last year--the first snow.
But, after my tears dried, I started to see my clearly and I decided I just have to make it a special week. I will have to do anything and everything Thanksgiving-y.  Yeah, I have to go to work but that doesn't mean I can't make this week festive.  I can teach my students about Thanksgiving and make hand-shaped turkeys in my kids courses.  I can watch every Thanksgiving episode of Friends there is.  I can cook a beautiful dinner for my in-laws on Thursday night.  I can decorate for Thanksgiving and then, this weekend, decorate for Christmas. 

J.J.'s Thanksgiving face two years ago at our pre-Thanksgiving dinner.  He LOVES turkey. 
And that is exactly what I am going to do, starting with my blog!  Get ready for a whole week of cheesy Thanksgiving posts.  And be sure to comment and let me know your tips and tricks for a wonderful, delicious holiday! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Food on Friday: cinnamon rolls

Happy Friday everyone!  I can't believe the weekend is here yet again.  It always comes as a pleasant surprise.  I am looking forward to having some downtime and my love home for the first weekend in a long time.  He will be gone for 6 days starting on Thursday (Thanksgiving :-( ).  So we plan on overdosing on togetherness so next weekend won't be so hard.

Today's recipe is seriously a treat--and the PERFECT post-Thanksgiving breakfast for any visitors.  They contain a ton of butter so that you can come down gradually from your butter/fat/calorie high of the night before.  Plus, they are super cozy and give you a happy, homey feeling.

I had heard about these cinnamon rolls before.  My friend Rachel made them sometime around the holidays last year and posted them on her wonderful little food blog.  Then, I started reading about them on just about every blog out there in the cyber world.  That's when I knew they must be seriously good and decided I would have to try them some day.

Flash forward about 9 months and there I am with a serious cinnamon roll deficiency.  I am craving them day in and day out for a month.  And finally, I grow a pair and decide that, although I have never made dough from scratch before, I will give these a shot.  Now, I don't think that my first attempt ever at making a dough (or my attempt to quarter the recipe, bad idea) quit reached the pinnacle that these cinnamon rolls are capable of.  Nonetheless, they were seriously scrumptious (and had Peter jumping up and down like a little kid).  With a little skill and expertise, they could be life-changing. 

So, get baking and give these bad boys a spin.  Then, please go for a jog.  You may seriously shorten your life span if you don't!

Starting the whole thing: flour and sugar.

The milk and oil mixture with yeast. 
 The dough.
 All rolled up...there is a LOT of butter and sugar in there.

Getting ready for the oven...

...and just out of the oven.

Yumm...with frosting. 

 Enjoying my cinnamon rolls with a cup of coffee!

 And a newspaper...that I can't really read. 

Hello delicious!

*This recipe makes a huge amount.  I don't suggest quartering the recipe (like I did) but you could try doing half.  I used plain frosting since I didn't have maple anything and it was still great. 

The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls
from The Pioneer Woman


1 quart Whole Milk 
1 cup Vegetable Oil 
1 cup Sugar 
2 packages Active Dry Yeast, 0.25 Ounce Packets 
8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour 
1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder 
1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda 
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
Plenty Of Melted Butter 
2 cups Sugar 
Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon


1 bag Powdered Sugar 
2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring 
1/2 cup Milk 
1/4 cup Melted Butter 
1/4 cup Brewed Coffee 
1/8 teaspoon Salt

Preparation Instructions

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it - overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don't skimp on the frosting."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursdays: Health

Hi, friends!  How are you today?  I am just peachy, but it has been a long day and I am very happy and grateful to finally be in bed, a hot water bottle on my back.

It's Thursday, which means that it's time to give thanks for all the blessings in my life.  The truth is that I probably have more to be thankful for this year than I have ever had before.  You see, this year, two very important people in my life were injured in serious accidents.  I feel so thankful and so blessed that I can say that both are healthy and well now.
My good friend and I before his accident, when he came to visit me :-).
In July one of my best friends was injured in a car accident.  It could have turned out to be terrible--and it was for a moment there--but today he is healed, healthy and happy.  Only one month later, in August, I got the scariest call of my life: my dad was in the trauma center at a hospital near my hometown in California and no one really knew what was going on.  Plus, I was 9,000 miles away!  He had been in a bicycle accident (he is an avid cyclist) and had been rushed to the ER.  Luckily, some hours later, we found out that his injuries, although extensive, were not life threatening.  It was a relief, but we knew we had a long road ahead of us: he had broken his pelvis in 3 places.  Now, only 4 months later, he is healthy again, walking and cycling. 

My dad and I after his accident.
These experiences were new for me and very frightening.  I will never forget them.  Everyday since, I have thanked my lucky stars that my amazing family and my wonderful friends have their health and their happiness.  I am so happy I got to travel to California and be there for my dad after his accident.  I am thankful nothing was worse.  Health and life were always something I took for granted...but not anymore.  I know how quickly things can change and I am thankful for every minute of good fortune we have.  :-)

What are you thankful for today?

P.s. I am also grateful for my beautiful sister who was born 23 years ago, tomorrow!  Happy birthday, sis!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Easy art: vintage eye charts

Via Art Posters
I am currently obsessed with vintage eye charts.   They make great, inexpensive art.  You can find them online or you can make your own by using progressively smaller fonts.   Here are a couple of inspiring examples. 
Via Typophile

Via Restoration Hardware Baby and Child
Via Pinterest, Via Kaboodle
How cute to put in a secret message such as "Zack and Reccea." Via From Gardners 2 Bergers