I have gotten so lazy when it comes to this blog! I have much more to post than recipes (and a queue of about 20 recipe posts that still need to be made) but can never find the energy to do it.

These are colza flowers, used to make oil. They are all over the roadside here; it’s even hard to concentrate on driving when I pass them! Very expansive fields of bright flowers–who could look away? I assumed they were weeds since they grew seemingly overnight and are very tall, but a friend that lives in France corrected me. I think they will get quite a bit taller before they’re harvested, so hopefully I will get to enjoy them for a bit longer.

Gold Dior earrings. Joseph bought these for me a few weeks ago, completely unexpected! I’m glad I married someone with good taste in jewelry ;)  The gold is perfectly gilded, but the lettering caught the reflection of my camera in the middle photo.

I’m so glad it is getting warm out finally. The winters aren’t too bad here, but they are definitely longer than what I’m used to in Texas.

I bought these soaps in Paris last month. They are all different flavors, but they somehow work wonderfully together. Now my bathroom smells amazing!
The brown is vanilla; green is green tea; red is strawberry; yellow is magnolia; purple in the back is labelled “mure” and I’m not quite sure what that means just yet.

A post I made about my December trip to Germany was recently featured on the new travel website, Ruba.

Brownie Cupcakes

I became famous among my friends for my cupcake brownies. Throughout high school there wasn’t a birthday party where I didn’t walk in carrying two dozen of these! For as long as I can remember my dad topped off brownies with vanilla icing (though in my household we didn’t wait for them to cool completely, so the icing was always runny). Everything is better when made into a cupcake, right?

I’m breaking one of my rules and recommending you stay away from anything made from scratch for these. I’ve made them many times and the only way to really get the “Brownie Cupcakes” taste I grew up enjoying is from box mix brownies and canned frosting–really! It is the only way to do it. Some how box mix brownies taste amazing in cupcake form, and adding canned vanilla frosting takes them to a new level.

Follow directions on brownie mix; I like to add a handful of chocolate chips to the batter. Be sure to coat the cupcake tin with grease and don’t fill them as much as you would with cake batter. Bake according to directions on the box or bag, shortening the baking period. Don’t overcook! My general rule of thumb is that I take them out of the oven when I start smelling them from the next room. Let cool on wire rack before topping with canned vanilla icing.

I like using Betty Crocker’s Rainbow Chip icing, but since that wasn’t available here, I just topped them with M&M’s. The results were great!

Wonderful Paris, France!

Warning: this is going to be a pretty big post.

Joseph and I recently took our greatest trip so far–four days in beautiful Paris! It was lovely and wonderful, and I can’t wait to go back again! The city is huge, but in four days I got to see nearly everything I wanted.

April 4

One of the first things we saw in the city:

How adorable is this hotel? I’m not normally the “take-a-photo-of-your-Best-Western-suite” type of gal, but I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this cute French room. Much better than a Best Western, in my opinion!

The Arc de Triomphe–this was much bigger than I anticipated. I guess I was expecting it to be around the same size as the arches I’ve seen in Rome, but of course Napoleon went all out on this one!

Every time I walked through gravel my nice leather boots looked hilarious! Joseph thankfully found a rag to clean them off–but not until our second day.

The Louvre! Only Europe can make yellow so beautiful.

This was taken inside the famous glass pyramid! I actually thought the pyramid looked pretty ugly and out of place, but it does make for nice photos.

Our first day there I just had to see the Eiffel Tower! I’ve always thought it was beautiful, but I never expected it to be so big! Pictures can not adequately describe how gigantic it is.

We climbed to the first level, and that was high enough for me. After that we sat in the lawn and watched the tower light up as the sun set. By the time the sky was dark, the tower was a solid orange color. In person it looked like it had completely transformed into an orange that looked perfect with the blue sky–as if the metal had actually changed colors.

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Budapest, Hungary & Vienna, Austria

Wow, I am very behind here! I went on a short weekend trip to Budapest and Vienna last weekend and had a great time. I’d never imagined going to Hungary, but it was very beautiful! I only got one day in Vienna, so I am definitely planning on going back.

Budapest, Hungary

I thought this building was so beautiful. It reminds me of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

The streets of downtown Budapest were lined with buildings similar to this one. Very beautiful!

Saint Stephen’s Basilica

The inside of the basilica

Matthias Church

Me in a street in Budapest

Hungary is famous for its lace, so I couldn’t resist this little bit of handmade lace.

Vienna, Austria
The day was rainy, and we only had a few hours to spend in the city. It was beautiful but deserves a redo! Austria is one of my favorite places I’ve traveled to, and I think I need two or three days to fully enjoy Vienna.

The Michael Wing of the Hofburg Palace

Joseph and me in front of the Hofburg Palace

Veal weiner schnitzel–one of my favorite meals!

Apple strudel, to top off my very cliche (but delicious) lunch

Rainbow Cupcakes

I’ve seen recipes for rainbow cakes and cupcakes going around the internet for a while. I’ve never had much interest in them even though I like the way they look, but this morning I woke up really wanting to make some! They are cute and were fun to make–I imagine these would be a bit hit at a birthday party or bake sale!

To make these, prepare white cake batter. You can use a boxed mix, but I would suggest a heavier cake to keep the colors from mixing, like this Martha Stewart recipe listed below.
Prepare whichever recipe you are using as usual. Before pouring batter in a pan, divide into separate bowls. Use food coloring (I prefer gel) to achieve the colors you would like. Then spoon each color one by one into cupcake liners. Many people like to spoon one directly on top of the other to create layers, but I like mine a bit messier. Have fun with it!

Before they baked they looked like this:

After they cool I iced them with a heavy and rich cream cheese frosting.

My recipe suggestions:

Vanilla Cucpakes, from Martha Stewart

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cup sugar
4 large eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard two muffin tins with paper liners. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
2. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla.
3. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture and sour cream in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.
4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean and the top is springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely before spreading with frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

16. oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Add sugar and beat until you’ve reached the desired consistency. For a sweeter taste, add more sugar.

The above recipes should make and generously frost 24 cupcakes, 48 mini-cupcakes, or one cake.

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