Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

I decided I will just post two photos or videos per month for this review. It's tricky, but a good way to be concise. Here's a bit about 2014:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas 2014

[An awesome card my sister sent my parents.]

I'm in northern California staying with my parents. I've had a wonderful Christmas break and there are lots of pictures I'd like to post here sometime. I'm going through them today since my sister's family has started their 2-day trip home, and now it's just my parents and me (I leave tomorrow).

It was so much fun to spend several days with my parents and sister's family! My nieces and I did Christmasy things like crafts, cookie decorating and looking at lights. Then we had several friends and relatives over and I got to see people I hadn't seen in years. We had a full week. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw a little of it.

Now it's a lot quieter here and I miss my nieces already! :( :( They are so cute and funny and special bonus: they like me! I am trying to not think about it already being over because it'll make me too sad. I'll see them again in a few months, hopefully!

I don't even know where to start with the photos, so here are just a few that initially caught my eye. I'll post more as I work on them.

One morning it was really foggy, so one niece and I went out looking for good photo subjects.

My sister's due in early April!

My nieces looking all cute for our party. It was chilly, but I dragged them outside for a few quick photos. Soon they will have another sister!

Little girls fascinated with the light-up angels in my parents' window.

Sisters being kind of goofy after the party.

Little E (age 3) "putting on makeup." She was basically waving a coaster in front of her face, because she's adorable.

I hope you all had a nice Christmas. I can't believe it's already time to start compiling my end-of-the-year posts!

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Last weekend I baked three kinds of cookies to hand out to coworkers. I thought I'd link you to the recipes since they turned out well.

Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies

You can click on that link to go to the page, but I will also paste the recipe below in case that page ever goes away.

I chose these because I had tried the lemon white chocolate cookies at Burgerville (my traditional stop on my way home from Seattle) that were so good I needed to make my own. This recipe turned out very similarly to those cookies. The only thing is they seem to dry out fast, so keep them nice and air tight after they cool. Also, I added a bit more extract than the recipe called for, so you might want to adjust that or the zest.

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest (from about 3 medium lemons)
1 large egg
1 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cornstarch for 20 seconds, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and lemon zest (not until pale and fluffy, just creamy). Mix in egg, then mix in lemon extract and vanilla extract (if you want the cookies a little more yellow, you can add a few drops of yellow food coloring when adding the extracts). With mixer set on low speed slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined, then mix in white chocolate chips.

Scoop dough out 2 1/2 Tbsp at a time and shape into balls (I used a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop and filled heaping). Place on Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 10 - 12 minutes (cookies should look slightly under-baked, they will continue to cook slightly once removed from oven). Cool on baking sheet 2 minutes (if desired, you can lightly press more white chocolate chips into tops immediately after removing from oven) then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe Source: Cooking Classy

M&M Cookies

For this, I just used my usual chocolate chip cookie recipe that you can click over to. It has served me well over the years, although this time I made the mistake of miscalculating flour and I had a tray of them come out all flat. But I fixed it!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip (with peanut butter) Cookies

I learned something: you can change a regular chocolate chip recipe to be chocolate-chocolate chip by subbing out some of the flour for cocoa. I read different amounts, but settled on 1/4th of the flour being replaced with cocoa, and that seemed to work well. So I used the same chocolate chip cookie recipe except for that switch. You may want to add a bit more flour, it's up to you. It did change the texture a little, but I thought they were good.

The peanut butter mention is there in lowercase because it was a minor thing. Nestle now has special baking chips with different fillings (they're called Delightfulls). So I bought some with the peanut butter filling. It was a very small amount, but I was in the mood to jazz things up a little.

These weren't traditional Christmas cookies, but people seem to like the old standards. Have you done any baking this season?

Thursday, December 11, 2014


(Just an old photo I found. It was taken in December of 2008 when we strung up some lights in our office, and had a nice sunset one night.)

I have neglected this blog, and part of the reason is that I haven't been taking bloggable photos. But I know I can post even without pictures, so here I am.

Thanksgiving was great! I went to the Seattle area (like last year) and every day was different, but I think I got to experience a nice balance of activities. It snowed a little, and was generally FREEZING for most of my visit, but that made it fun and memorable. I really hated leaving to go back to normal life after the nice 5-day break.

But normal life hasn't been so bad! Last Friday I got some good news and it seems to have given me a jolt of Christmas spirit. I was feeling overwhelmed by all I wanted to accomplish this month, but now I'm feeling much more on top of things. I've shopped, baked, hung lights, sent a bit of mail, wrapped gifts and lots of other little things. I LOVED Christmas when I was a kid (like most kids), but then I started feeling stressed and sometimes bummed about it for part of my adulthood. In the past few years, I've been getting some of my childhood excitement. I can point to some possible reasons, but I don't really know why. Life just has its phases with things, I guess.

Anyway, I am glad that Christmas gives us an excuse to do special things for people. It gives me the push to step slightly out of my comfort zone and contact old friends or try new projects. Sometimes I think Christmas is dragged on too long when I see stores decorating before Halloween. But then as the day approaches, it feels like there's never enough time to do everything I'd like to do. (Like go to the Festival of Lights at The Grotto in Portland. I just learned of that this year, but I don't really have the time/energy to go. How cool does that sound?)

I have several more things to accomplish in the next two weeks, but I am trying to enjoy each step of the process instead of just dwelling on the list or wishing it would all be over.

And oh yeah, I just remembered I've taken some pictures and wanted to share some recipes with you! I'll try and get to that this week. We'll see, chickadee.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite Christmas songs:

We listened to a lot of Mannheim Steamroller when I was younger, so it has a lot of good memories attached. But the choir version of this song is great, too.


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