Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My 2011 Reads

Not quite the 75 books that I hoped to read in 2011, but that was probably unrealistic to begin with. :) Next year I'm going to aim for 52.

  1. The Soldiers' Wife by Margaret Leroy
  2. The Slap by Chistos Tsiolkas*
  3. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (re-read)
  5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (re-read)
  6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (re-read)
  7. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  8. Room by Emma Donoghue
  9. Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life by Sandra Beasley
  10. One Day by David Nicholls
  11. When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenwaldt
  12. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
  13. Gap Creek by Robert Morgan
  14. Around the Bloc: My life in Moscow, Beijing and Havana by Stephanie Elizondo Griest
  15. Female Nomad and Friends by Rita Golden Gelman
  16. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
  17. Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by Maarten J Troost
  18. Hyenas Laughed at Me and Now I Know Why by Tim Cahill
  19. Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
  20. The Risks of Sunbathing Topless: And Other Funny Stories from the Road by Kate Chynoweth
  21. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen*
  22. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
  23. Ape House by Sara Gruen
  24. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  25. Band of Angels by Julia Gregson
  26. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
  27. Lost on Planet China: Or How I Learned to Love Squid by Maarten J Troost
  28. The Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 edited by Stephanie Elizondo Griest
  29. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

* The two best books I read this year:

What are the best books you read? What should I read in 2012?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

happy christmas eve

Looks like we're about ready for Christmas.

All the packages are ready to be loaded into the sleigh.

The faux fir is decorated with ornaments from some our favorite trips...

...and topped with a happy Yeti.

While Krampus stands guard over the gifts.

Yep, we're ready to celebrate! And for the first time in almost a decade, all we need to do is just drive across the state to visit family rather than fly across the country. That is NICE.

Have a happy holiday! And if you don't observe Christmas, I hope you still get to spend some time with friends and family. Cheers!

Friday, December 23, 2011

city sidewalks

I’ve been loving the holiday season here in Seattle. It’s my first time ever living in this city at the holidays and I’m so impressed with all the festive cheer that the city displays. Lights on every tree, carolers on every corner (okay, not quite), and fun holiday events all over the city. Here are some of my favorites.

This run benefiting arthritis research was so much fun! It’s a 5k and 95% of it is on the I-5 express lanes. When else are you going to be able to run on the freeway for 3 miles with thousands of people dressed in antlers, Santa suits, and tutus? I even saw an abominable snowman and accompanying lumberjack. The added bonus, since it’s on the express way it’s covered in case of rain, which let’s be honest it’s pretty miraculous it wasn’t raining this year on race day (side note: as of December 17, it’s the driest December on record). I bet it’s one of the only practically indoor 5k courses in the world. I’ve been running a lot lately, so I was hoping for a fast time, but once I realized just how crowded it was with 12,000 people running down I-5, I opted for an enjoyable time instead and just marveled at all the creative costumes as I trotted along in my jingle bell antlers and red stripy socks.

Local architecture firms design massive gingerbread houses around a designated theme to benefit JDRF Northwest Chapter. This year, I think the theme was global train stations. Here are my two favorites:


A holiday tradition for many Seattle families, I hadn’t been to the Nutcracker in more than 10 years. The last time, my best friend and I leaned for two hours in the standing room only section at the Vienna ballet. This time, we paid for real tickets where we actually were able to sit and enjoy the production and take in the brilliant Maurice Sendak designed set. Here's a pretty worthless photo of said set. Just take my word for it, it's spectacular.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

cheap and easy fudge

If my last fudge recipe was overwhelming or too expensive. Try this old standby, from an evaporated milk brand website.

Here's what you need:
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 14oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
Dash of salt

Line a 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper.
Combine all ingredients in a heavy sauce pan. Stir over low heat until chocolate is melted.
Pour into pan. Chill for 2 hours. Cut into 64 1-inch squares.
Store in an air tight container in the fridge. Share with friends, family, and coworkers.

When I poured this into the pan, it felt a little sad, especially next to the salted caramel masterpiece from yesterday. So I pressed holiday-colored chocolate candies into the top to dress it up. Much more festive!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

salted caramel fudge

Here's what you'll need for the fanciest tasting recipe you'll make all season. This deliciousness is adapted from british measurements at this site.

1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ cup golden syrup
1 stick of butter
1 cup of white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes
Line an 8x8 square baking dish with parchment paper.

Add first five ingredients, save the white chocolate chips and sea salt, to a heavy saucepan. 

The one ingredient you may not have heard of is the Golden Syrup. It’s a British product. A thick, golden syrup that comes in a very cool, vintage-looking can. I was able to find it at Metropolitan Market in Seattle for just under $6. If you can’t find it at your high-end grocery store, they sell it on Amazon. And, although the rest of this recipe is not vegan, the golden syrup is! Some people use it as a substitute for honey.

Cook over low heat stirring constantly until mixture sugar has dissolved. This took me about 12 minutes. 

At this point the original instructions said to increase the heat and bring to a simmer until the mixture thickened and came away from the side of the pan. This never happened for me. I just advise to keep cooking it about 5-10 minutes more.Then remove from heat and stir in the white chocolate until combined and melted. Again, this was not as easy as it sounds. It took me a lot of stirring and the help of my husband smooshing up the chips to get all the chocolate completely melted and combined into the final, beautifully smooth fudge mixture.

One you’ve got the mixture looking good, pour it into your prepared 8x8 pan. Smooth the top, if necessary, and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes, pressing the flakes into fudge with back of spoon to secure, if necessary. My fudge was still pretty soft and liquid when I poured it into the pan so it was smooth and the sea salt flakes kind of melted nicely into the top without much effort.

Set aside for 30 minutes and then chill overnight. Cut into 64 1-inch pieces and refridgerate in an airtight container.

With the imported golden syrup and the sea salt flakes, this is not a cheap recipe. But it’s worth it. It tastes like pure gold and is a great gift for friends, family and coworkers. Trust me, you’re going to want to give this away because 1, when people taste it they will think you are a goddess in the kitchen and 2, you don’t want 64 pieces of this sitting around your house for the whole holiday season.

 Tune in tomorrow for a recipe for the other fudge pictured above (it's much easier!).