NYE

It’s New Years Eve day….guess that means a heart-felt reflective post is a must, n’est pas?!

What a year it has been. This time last year I was ringing in the new year with friends at a pub in Scotland.  We had probably already had a few drinks as my friends are Australian and we were celebrating at the correct time for them (noon in Scotland, midnight in Aussieland..something like that). This year I am about to go into work and cocktail people’s drinks all night–a bit different.  So I won’t be able to rock a cute sparkly dress or dance til the sun comes up but I will have a little extra spending money in my pocket to be used tomorrow for a day in PHILADELPHIA for the Mummers parade (stay tuned).

I spent my last year in France, and I guess there is no need to go into too much detail because this blog has put together a well written account of the year in full.  I am thankful for that in itself.  Having this account of my year is so awesome.  I just cannot believe that I have been home from France for almost 3 months already.  Time has been flying by.

I have been blessed with so much in my life so far. I cannot wait for a new year and new adventures.  Keep posted to hear all about them because I’m not going anywhere 🙂

BONNE ANNÉE À TOUT LE MONDE!!!! 2012 here we come…

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A Very Merry

I love this time of the year.  Just driving home from work late at night puts a smile on my face–not only because work is over but because of all the houses lit up magnificently.  Christmas music is played in shopping malls, grocery stores and my car (duh).  Starbucks features those high calorie flavored specialty drinks that I just can’t deny–mostly because of the cute festive cups (I’m a sucker for packaging).  There is egg nog, Christmas tree farms, nativity scenes, snow (I hope), candy canes, classic movies on AMC, ugly sweaters, presents, sparkles and excitement.  Everyone is excited and giddy for the weeks leading up to Christmas even those not celebrating the religious reason for the season.  It’s just The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Hands down.

AND NOW ITS OVER!

It came early (I wrote the above paragraph at the beginning of the month) and it ends all too soon.  Literally midnight on Christmas Day hits and carols end playing on the radio, Christmas specials finish on TV and everyone goes back to work.  It’s a whirlwind that whips us around for a few weeks and then leaves us feeling dizzy.

I was lucky to have a lot of fun parties, get togethers and family time this year. Last year being in France meant none of that so I enjoyed every second of the madness. Here are some photos from the past month (they serve as reason for not posting here).

so many cookies

Ugly Sweater Party!

Minty Treat

Missed crazy lights in France last year

Getting the tree

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

Christmas morning

THE AFTERMATH

Even got some Hanukkah celebrating in this year.

Hope you all had a very Merry day celebrating Christ’s birth.  Can’t wait for a new year of new adventures and surprises (for you AND me).

I might just stick to eating the cookies

I have my first cookie exchange party tomorrow night and I am so excited.  Mostly because I cannot wait to see all of the yummy cookies and EAT THEM!  When I RSVPd that is about all I could think of: eating the cookies.  Now here I am, the eve of, and I am realizing that I must also bake some cookies myself.  Might not seem like a big deal to some but for me it’s a bit daunting for two reasons.

1) Baking and I don’t always get along.  The whole exact measurements and step-by-step instructions which include waiting for things to cool completely…  I’m much better at throwing this or that in a pan, taste testing it, adding some more or something else and eating it for dinner; winging it is the term I use, others call it cooking.  This method doesn’t work so much for baking.

2) My friend is vegan and I have agreed to make my cookies vegan so that she has someone to trade with at the event.  Now I’m realizing that vegan means no butter or egg, two very important ingredients for a quality cookie that doesn’t fall apart on the baking sheet.  (I already have this issue when I do use butter and egg…) So the ante has been upped.

No problem finding the recipes or the special substitute ingredients like flax-seed, non-dairy butter and cashews.  Off to a great start.  After a quick search on the internet for what makes a good flax-seed egg, I survived that challenge too 🙂 Go me!

I mix the dough, pre heat the ovens; things are going smoothly.  Then it arrives: the first mishap.  My cookies are most definitely not cooked after 20 minutes.  Maybe I made them too big?  Measurements of 2 inches are like a golf ball right? (I know I’m wrong)  I guess I didn’t flatten them?  So I leave them in a while longer.

Bigger cookie=more time needed.  Right?  Notice how I assume so much while baking. This is what gets me into trouble.

Pre-oven phase

I wait a bit longer.  The problem becomes that they are not holding together very well.  I do a test run of picking one up and it begins to break.  I quickly smush it back together and close the oven door.  Another 25 minutes later (double the original time) I pull the suckers out and call it a valiant effort.  They aren’t pretty and I am not even sure they will come up in full cookie form after the cooling process–which I am determined to wait out in the full–but they are done.

Finished product

So now the second batch is in the oven.  Different cookie.  Looking better already.  Problem with this group is that I am using the “broken” oven.  So far it preheated with only one mishap so as long as I keep an eye on it maybe it won’t turn off mid-bake…

And it was a success.  Even the first batch that I was scared about are good (yes I taste tested…how could I not).  Now I think I’ll squeeze in a run so I am not tempted to disturb the cooling process. 

Are you a good baker? Any good recipes?  Have you ever tried vegan recipes?

I’ll let you all know how the exchange goes tomorrow night. 

Santacon

This past weekend I traveled up to New York City!  It’s always a good time of the year to make the trip because of all the fun holiday things that go on there.  EVery store is decorated to the nines, the huge tree is up at Rockefeller center and people brave the cold weather just to bask in the lights of the city that doesn’t sleep.

This year I was excited to be put in the Christmas spirit in a new way: a bar crawl.  I participated in the santacon, a bar crawl type event all over the city.  The idea is to dress up and spend the entire day moving from place to place throughout the city.  Twitter posts mapped out the destinations throughout the day starting in both the upper and lower ends of the city.  I stayed with a friend on the Lower East side and dressed up like a reindeer.  This type of madness would NEVER fly in France. Just saying…

Before leaving PA I was deciding between a candy cane or a reindeer but when I forgot to pack my white jeans the decision was made for me.  And I have to say, I was happy with the choice!  My friends were Christmas trees, elves, Mrs Clause, Santa (of course), and there were even a few presents in the mix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We began the party with a 9am brunch.  As the sea of red accumulated in the apartment we finally hit the road to go to the first bar.

It was hilarious walking around the city and hailing cabs dressed in the crazy costumes.  Even more hilarious was that the streets, bars and cabs were packed with festive young adults.  From up town to downtown participants were showing a lot of Christmas spirit!  I can even recall Christmas carols being sung in the streets.

Took this on the second floor of one of the bars during Santacon

Me and my friends ended up finishing the afternoon at Rockefeller center’s famous Christmas tree.  Perfection in my eyes  🙂

Although the hype was about dressing up and having fun, the whole idea was based on a more meaningful reason for the season: helping others.  Many of the bars donated a portion of their proceeds to Toys For Tots and at the starting points non-perishable food items were collected for the Food Bank for NYC.

All in all the weekend, although unconventional, was a very fun way to get in the holiday spirit.  I now have the carols playing 24/7, I am watching all the fun Christmas movies on TV and am going to be baking lots of cookies this week for the many parties I have coming up!

Hope you all had a fun weekend preparing for the holidays.  Just 13 short days away!

Comfort food

It’s a rainy gray day here in the suburbs of Philadelphia and I wish I was on the beach.  Since that won’t be happening I decided to just cozy up and enjoy the day as is.  I have monkey bread in the oven and a cup of coffee next to me. So far so good.  I think a movie like The Holiday or The Family Stone (am I the only person who enjoys this movie?) would put the icing onto this cake…or monkey bread 😉

I would skip the movie and curl up with a good book but I just finished mine this morning and am not sure what to pick up next.  I was reading Sarah’s Key and although it intrigued me (finishing it to the end is a sign of this for me) I was not blown away like people had said I would be.  I felt connected to the French references and was touched by the beginning chapters where the author flashes back to the life of a little girl, Sarah and her Jewish family’s story in France during the Holocaust.  The style of writing however, I found elementary and basic.  I assume this book was originally written in French since the author herself is French.  So maybe something were lost in translation.  Even so, I found myself annoyed at the main character’s selfishness in the end.  I don’t want to give too much away but if you read the book you will understand when I say I found myself “siding” with her mother-in-law’s point of view.

Maybe it is time for an uplifting read to counterbalance these dreary days of winter. Any suggestions?

For now I’ll just eat my sugary snack and watch a mindless film.

The form was lost in the "plating" but it still tastes sooo good!

Did you miss me?

Did you miss me?  After blogging everyday in November I took the past few days off.  I did enjoy posting everyday but it felt a bit like a chore especially when I didn’t really have anything interesting to say.  I admit it, I’m not always interesting.  So although November is over I’m still blogging 🙂

This past weekend I traveled up to Princeton University for a swim meet.  My alma mater, JMU, was swimming the Tigers and a bunch of other schools in a three-day invitational.  I was excited to see the girls compete because it had been so long.  I watched some good swimming and diving, caught up with some friends and walked around the beautiful town of Princeton.

When you go to Princeton, New Jersey it just feels magical.  It’s a college town that you would find in postcards.  The old buildings of campus look like something out of Harry Potter and the little cafés and boutiques downtown are so quaint you can’t help snapping millions of pictures–or at least I couldn’t.

This place was called Halo Fête...how could I not be drawn to that French name!

Modern buildings like this one mix things up on a very old campus