A Warm Season

I love the colder seasons. I love leaves falling and crinkling under my feet and the months of soft sunlight. I love the frigid air everyone else seems to hate and being welcomed inside by a mound of cozy blankets and hot chocolate.

But I’ve had my air conditioner rather than my heater running every day this December. Granted, we’re only four days in, but that’s still something. Joseph and I set up our Christmas tree while it was 82°F outside. We’re at least trying to believe that it will eventually be winter.

I pulled out my homemade (construction paper) heart bokeh lens hood for this one.

I knit these stockings last year but was so tired of looking at them I put them away mid-December. I decided to add the finishing touches and finally hang them up this year.

I made pumpkin ice cream for Thanksgiving using this recipe. I actually bought author David Lebovit’s book, The Perfect Scoop, over the summer and had marked up all the recipes I couldn’t wait to try. But three days later I somehow lost in in my house, and it has yet to turn up…

Joseph’s 30th birthday was last weekend. Happy birthday, old man! Too bad our devoted cat is so apathetic towards our celebrations.

I’ll spare you the details of the house decorations, but you can see more photos from Christmas 2010 and Christmas 2011.

Buttermilk Pie

Buttermilk pie has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes since my parents first introduced me to it two years ago. We made five pies that Thanksgiving (and there were only five of us)–two pecan, two buttermilk, and one pumpkin cream. The buttermilk pie was the definite winner.

I didn’t expect to like this because I’m not at all a fan of buttermilk. I actually don’t like milk at all and can’t bring myself to drink it. This is how I rank different forms of milk, with the first being the best (but still disgusting): whole milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, buttermilk.

But buttermilk pie… buttermilk pie heaven-sent. It’s a rich custard-like Texan specialty. I can’t believe I went so long without it. Buttermilk pie is replacing pumpkin pie for me from now on–it’s as easy to make but with a much more interesting taste. This year I’ll be trying the recipe from Lisa Fain’s Homesick Texan.

Buttermilk Pie
Yield: 8 servings

2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or 1 tablespoon flour, 1/2 tablespoon cornmeal)
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), softened
3 large eggs, beaten
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 piecrust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the piecrust into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Combine the sugar with the flour and cornmeal, if you’re using. Cream the butter. Add the sugar mixture to the butter and then stir in the eggs, salt, buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla extract and vinegar.

Pour filling into the partially baked piecrust and bake in the oven uncovered until brown on top and the custard has set, about 45-50 minutes.

Salsa & Salsa Cozumel

This was our very last excursion and our very favorite!

Salsa & Salsa operates in a few cities–Cozumel, Mazatlan, and Los Cabos–and is rated the #1 activity for good reason. The class is a few hours long and is hosted by “Dancing chefs” who teach you first how to make seven varieties of salsa and then how to salsa dance. There were also unlimited and very strong margaritas, which we weren’t entirely expecting, but it made the gathering really fun and easygoing. This isn’t the kind of event we would normally do (I was frankly amazed I got Joseph to agree to salsa dancing), but it was an absolute blast.

I don’t have any photos of us salsa dancing, but I do have food photos! We were too busy dancing to pull out a camera!

Remember the unlimited margaritas I mentioned? I think they could be blamed for Joseph’s struggles with taking a photo with me in focus.

Salsa & Salsa Cozumel was at a beautiful private resort, and after the lesson we were able to take advantage of the amenities and swim for over an hour. The water in Cozumel is absolutely beautiful, so I was beyond excited to get to swim!

Click here to view all the blog posts from this trip!

Costa Maya, Mexico

This was our second stop and marked the middle of our trip. In Costa Maya we took a tour of the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins and then had lunch with a Mayan family. I kind of went out on a limb with this excursion–I booked with a company outside of Disney called The Native Choice. We had a very short port time (about four hours), but I emailed the company in advance and had all my worries soothed. I’m so glad I went with them!

Chacchoben Ruins

Lunch with a Mayan family

Beautiful vegetables grown on the property!

Of course I had to take a picture of the family’s cat.

Click here to view all the blog posts from this trip!

Grand Cayman

Our first excursion of our Disney Cruise (see all posts about the trip here) was to Grand Cayman, one of the Cayman Islands. We went to a touristy place called Hell, visited the Cayman Turtle Farm, and swam with stingrays.

I have to admit, I was not really excited about this day. I wasn’t interested in Hell and absolutely did not want to swim with stingrays. However, the last activity is so highly rated and so popular that I decided we should do it. I’m not scared of stingrays or anything, but I think they are creepy, and I didn’t want to touch them. I assumed as soon as I got in the water and got used to them, I would be fine. But that was not at all the case.


Our first stop was to “Hell”–a small field of black limestone formations that are supposed to resemble Hell. We took a couple pictures and then had nothing to do but go to the tiny gift shop, where a man walks around in a devil’s costume asking people, “Where the hell are you from?” There was also a very discolored and slightly-smaller-than-life cardboard cutout of said man.

Cayman Turtle Farm

I was really excited about visiting the Cayman Turtle Farm. I feel in love with turtles after we adopted our grumpy Lazar Wolf. But did you know that adult sea turtles are actually terrifying?

Swimming with Stingrays

We took a 20-30 minute boat ride out to Stingray City–shallow sandbars rife with stingrays. I look almost happy in this first photo (because that stingray was being held–I wouldn’t have been smiling had I known about the stray behind me), but the rest of the time I was an absolute nervous wreck. I stayed on the edge of the group with my hands clutched at my chest, frantically trying to move out of the way of any stingray that came towards me. And I squealed every time one managed to touch me.

I hated being “that person,” but I couldn’t help it. I was just really uncomfortable with the stingrays swimming all over the place because. I didn’t want them rubbing against me from every direction. They are way creepier than I anticipated–they have horrible yellow eyes and swim into people and each other very aggressively.

I thought it would be okay once I was in the water and really, really tried to not be a wet blanket. I started to get into the water immediately once we got there–like a normal person! But at that moment a gigantic stingray swam out from under the boat right where I was about to get in, and I moved to the back to bide my time. Eventually, there were only two people left: me and a crying 11 year old girl. No way was I going to appear the cowardice, so I got into the water without thinking. Then I stayed on the edge trying to avoid the stingrays and screamed when I had my first encounter–accidentally stepping on one. It was downhill from there.

I took a few photos with a waterproof disposable camera, but they didn’t come out that well since the water was moving so much I couldn’t keep my head and hands steady. Disappointing considering how brave I was to get that close to them!

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