Wednesday, December 28, 2011

a handmade christmas - fruit jam

For family the bags of cookies were paired with fruit jams. We made three varieties this year: strawberry, pear and berries. With very little sugar and a lot of fruit. For the packaging I chose a red gingham fabric (always a favorite) and matched it with the color of the labels (which I designed and like to think it didn't turn out so bad).

on books :: the best of 2011

Somehow I don't think I'll make it this year, do you ? I guess I was little too ambitious (after all I read 71 last year, and will probably read about the same this year), but as in most things quality is better than quantity, so I'll leave you with my list of best reads for 2011.

- Major Pettigrew's last stand, by Helen Simonson
- Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett
- Clara and Mr. Tiffany, by Susan Vreeland
- The Priory, by Dorothy Whipple
- Mariana, by Monica Dickens
- The Shuttle, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Diary of a provincial lady, by E.M. Delafield
- Cold comfort farm, by Stella Gibbons
- Between shades of gray, by Ruta Sepetys

Comfort reading:
- Daddy long legs, by  Jean Webster
- The girl who chased the moon, by Sarah Addion Allen

Young adult:
- The Penderwicks series, by Jeanne Birdsall
- What happened to goodbye, by Sarah Dessen

- Twilight robbery, by Frances Hardinge
- Fire, by Kristin Cashore
- The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas under red skies, by Scott Lynch
- The cloud roads and The serpent seas, by Martha Wells
- Troubled waters, by Sharon Shinn

Now, on a side note, 2011 was the year I converted to electronic reading. I never thought this would happen, but there you go ... out of the 68 books read, 51 were e-books.

What about you ? Any good reads this year you would like to share ?

a handmade christmas - ginger and spiced cardamom cookies

This year for the first time we decided to bake cookies for Christmas gifts. After a bit of research we settled on two recipes: the spiced cardamom cookies by Martha Stewart, and a ginger cookie recipe I was given by a friend. We made a trial run a few weeks before Christmas, tasted them and decided on a few changes (more spices, and less baking time). The final batch we made a few days before Christmas was much better, but already we're thinking of ways to perfect it next year. The packaging was much harder though, and above you can see a few of the ideas I had for that. The gingerbread house labels are also by Martha Stewart, and the minute I saw them I realized they were perfect for this.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Prague - day 2

Second day in Prague we planned to do the touristy thing and went up to the castle area. It's a nice walk from where we stayed, and lots of fabulous viewpoints to take photos from. Actually we walked everywhere in Prague, I read somewhere we should take the subway at least once but we never did.

It was crowded (it was Saturday) so we didn't go visit any of the museums and prefered to enjoy the sunny weather outside. We took a peek inside St. Vitus Cathedral, and then decided to go up the tower for the panoramic views. It's a looong way up but worth the effort.


On our way out we spotted the Lobkowicz Palace and the lunch special at the café inside. We sat outside with yet another great view of the city and enjoyed some warm food. I had a pasta dish that was delicious while A. enjoyed another goulash.Then we spent a good couple of hours inside the Toy Museum in front, but that deserves a post of its own.
 We crossed Charles Bridge once again, this time with barely enough space to move.
 But just in time for another sunset.
We headed to the Choco Café, which besides having the best hot chocolates we ever tasted (check out this menu), it turned out to be Sara's favorite café of the whole trip (I think that elephant slide might have had something to do about it) ... we didn't have a reservation this day, but were lucky that a small table soon cleared up (and quickly decided to make a reservation for the following afternoon)
Then another stroll through the Christmas market ...
  I love the Czech wooden toys, especially the pencil hedgehogs !
And finally, dinner was at the (supposedly) best vegetarian restaurant in town (reservation also needed). The food was ok, but nothing exceptional, so I can't really recommend it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Feliz Natal :: Merry Christmas

Prague - day 1

Hunger Wall Residence

Lunch at Café Lounge

Museum Kampa

Views from Museum Kampa

Charles Bridge at sunset

Christmas market at the Old Town Square

We arrived in Prague around lunchtime. It was cold (but not too much) and sunny, which is how I like it. We didn't do much that first day, and decided to just walk around. We checked in at our gorgeous apartment at the Hunger Wall Residence, which I would highly recommend when visiting Prague. Besides the really high standard of the apartments, breakfast is serviced by the Café Lounge next door, which was considered the best café in Prague last year, and came second place this year. Anyway, we had our lunch there that first day, and it was delicious. A. had lasagna, and I had the yumy grilled vegetables with bulgur that you can see above (and it was reasonably priced too).

Then we walked along the shore from the apartment to Charles Bridge, stopping every 5 minutes to take a photo. The bridge was almost empty, which I think is a rare event. We made our way to the Christmas market. I was curious to see if it matched the German markets we loved so much. It was somewhat different, and a bit disappointing though. It certainly was big, and incredibly crowded. But the stalls didn't offer so much traditional or local crafts, so I came back empty handed. Sara loved the animals stable, so we had to go back several times to see the sheep.

On our way back to the apartment we decided to skip dinner as we found an organic market nearby (after crossing Legions Bridge, it's right there at the corner on your right side) which sold fantastic fresh bread and goulash soup, the perfect comfort food for weary travellers like us.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A handmade christmas: chocolate nut toffee

This year we've tried to make most of our Christmas gifts, and we chose things that we think our close friends and family would probably enjoy. I'll share some of those ideas here, because I truly believe the best gifts are handmade. This first batch was chocolate nut toffee, which I made for my book loving friends (with a little help from A. because the toffee part is kind of tricky). The recipe is from Apples for Jam, one of my favorite recipe books.