Monday, December 30, 2013

The Griffith Observatory

One of my favorite places in LA is the Griffith Observatory. Bradford and I went there almost 5 years ago when we were dating and I was excited to go back again. We arrived at about 4PM on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's and to say it was a little crowded is an understatement. We were shocked when we were able to get tickets to the 5:15 planetarium show. Nice to know that our record-breaking pace hiking from our car up to the observatory wasn't for nothing. 

I love that the observatory does such a great job combining education with the natural beauty of LA. The exhibits are interesting and informative, the planetarium show is stellar, and the views outside are just unbeatable. Late afternoon was a really great time of day to go because we were able to enjoy the views in daylight, sunset, and nighttime. If you're ever in LA, I definitely recommend taking some time for this activity. 


As you can see in the above picture, there are lots of hiking trails all around the observatory. It'd be fun to bring a picnic and enjoy an afternoon of gorgeous LA views. 



{Daylight}

{Sunset}


{Nighttime}

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sequins and Glitter!

With New Year's Eve right around the corner, I've been thinking a lot about sequins and glitter. From pants to sweatshirts to nails to shoes, there are so many ways to dress up your look and celebrate the New Year with some pizazz. 

1. DIY Edible Glitter - 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of food coloring mixed, bake 10 mins in oven at 350 degrees
3. Nasty Gal Midnight Run Sequin Skirt - $48.00
4. Graftobian Glitter Hair Spray - $8.00
5. F-Troupe Glitter Bow Oxford - $109.99 (was $153.00)
6. LULUS Exclusive Reign or Shine Gold Sequin Maxi Skirt - $95.00
7. Nails Inc. GALAXY Knightsbridge Road Nail Polish - $11.00
8. MAKE UP FOREVER Sand 11 Metallic Tan Glitter - $15.00
9. ASOS Glamorous Sweatshirt with Sequin Sleeves - $39.93 (was 65.34)
10. ASOS Warehouse Two Tone Sequin Blazer - $90.75 (was $181.49)
11. ASOS Goldie Legging with Sequin Panel - $45.37 (was $79.86)

Image Sources: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies




One of my all-time favorite flavor combinations is chocolate + mint. Thus, it's no wonder why Andes mints are one of my favorite candies. Last week, when I was searching for a cookie to include as part of my Christmas Thank You Gifts, I thought of this divine little thing. A chewy chocolate cookie with an Andes mint melted on top and swirled into perfection...divine.

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies
From CookingClassy.com
Yield: 45 cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: about 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
2 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)
45 individual Andes mints

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, water, and salt, then set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and stir until melted, then allow mixture to cool 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda for 30 seconds. Pour chocolate mixture into the bowl of an electric stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, blend in eggs, one at a time, mixing just until combined after each addition and adding in vanilla and peppermint extracts with the second egg. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Scoop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, shape into balls and drop onto foil or parchment-lined baking sheets, about two inches apart. Bake for about 7-9 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately top each cookie with a single Andes mint. Allow to rest 1-2 minutes, then using a small spoon, spread the melted Andes mint over the top of each cookie. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Thank You Gift Idea




Around Christmastime, there's lots of reasons to give. It seems that everyone is in a mood to go the extra mile to show their appreciation and love to friends and family. Yesterday, I sang in a Christmas choir at my church which I helped to organize. As a thank you to all the choir members who sang, I decided to make a selection of my favorite holiday cookies (including these Red Velvet Peppermint Crinkle Cookies) and package them up in Chinese take-out containers, which conveniently already have the words "Thank You" printed on the box. To add a little Christmas flair, I printed green "Merry Christmas" tags and glued them together around the handle of the box. 

It was a simple gesture but one that was appreciated by my choir members. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wanderlust: Rajasthan, India








Lately, I've been dreaming of India. Since it's such a huge country, I decided to dig a little deeper and learn more about specific regions of this country. Rajasthan literally translates to "Land of Kings" and from the 7th century to the 13th century AD, was fragmented into competing kingdoms. Today, Rajasthan is known to have so many desirable attractions that one can overwhelm themselves trying to fit everything into a single trip to the region. If I were to travel there, I'd want to spend time in Udaipur, "the most diversified and romantic spot on the continent of India" according to Col. James Tod. Oh, and I'd also want to dine on Rajasthani cuisine, which I hear is an experience in and of itself.

{Click each photo to view the source.}

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pumpkin Bread



My mother's signature holiday treat is Pumpkin Bread. As a kid I can clearly remember walking into the house after a day at school to the amazing, fragrant smell of freshly baked pumpkin bread. Ah! I don't know if there's a better smell or feeling in the world. My mom still makes a couple batches each year and this seasonal treat tastes just as good now as it did when I was five. The holidays are about traditions and spending time with the people you love. I'm feeling especially grateful for the loved ones in my life right now and think that a gift of pumpkin bread is the perfect way to show someone you love 'em. 

Pumpkin Bread
Yield: 8 small loaves or 2 large loaves
Total Time: about 1 hour, 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

5 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups sugar
1 large (29 oz.) can pumpkin
1 cup vegetable oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray loaf pans with cooking spray. (You may use 8 small loaf pans or 2 large loaf pans.)

Mix and sift the first five ingredients and set aside. In a very large bowl, mix together sugar, pumpkin, and vegetable oil, then add sifted dry ingredients and stir until completely incorporated. Pour mixture evenly into the pans and bake for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until a knife inserted comes out clean. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's the holiday season!


I've just finished decorating my Christmas tree and I'm so happy to be officially entering the Christmas season! Thanksgiving was a wonderful time to relax and have fun with family--the perfect way to start the holidays. I'm already preparing for some holiday parties and festivities in the coming weeks, including one of my favorite local traditions the Manhattan Beach Holiday Fireworks Show. What are your holiday plans?

A note about the Amazon Gift Card giveaway:
The giveaway has ended and a winner will be contacted this week. Thank you to all who participated! (Let me know if you win!)