Roman Holiday

Wow, it’s been a while! The holidays have been busy for me–my family visited! My dad had been to Sicily, but no one else had been to Italy, so I had a good time showing them around. We went to Venice, Rome, Vatican City, and Milan. I’d visited all these places multiple times before, but I had fun showing them around and taking photos.

This is my sister, Victoria. She’s 16.

My parents have been married for 36 years now! They were married when they were 18, and they’re definitely a huge inspiration to me.

Milan Duomo, one of my favorite places in the world! I’ve seen this three times now and it’s so huge and beautiful.

Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio

My parents and sister

View of Vatican City from the Vatican Museum

The Sistine Chapel. These photos are against the rules, but I didn’t use flash, so no harm was done!

St. Peter’s Basilica

My sister in front of Palentine Hill. Isn’t that hat cute? She got it at an Italian store here called Oviesse.

My mom and sister throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain, ensuring their return to Rome.

The Colosseum by night. Though I’ve seen it four times now, I am still always amazed by the Colosseum! It was so beautiful light up at night.

The Arch of Constantine, just beside the Colosseum.

The next morning we went to the Colosseum and saw it by daylight!

Me inside the Colosseum

My dad taking a photo of the Colossum

With our matching scarves on their last day here. Can you tell I was falling sick? I’m still recovering

My sister at my favorite gelateria

My grandmother also visited, but she didn’t want to be in many photos! I also have two older brothers who didn’t visit.

I hope you are all having a good new year so far!

Chocolate Toffee Cookies Made with Heath Bars

I’ve been wanting to make these cookies for weeks. I love Heath bars, and it was a difficult argument at the grocery store when I pleaded to my husband, “REALLY! I really do need these for a recipe!” Of course when I came home I ate three candy bars, but I did leave enough for the recipe!

Mine looked quite different than the ones over at Smitten Kitchen–recipe here.



Chocolate Toffee Cookies

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped I probably reduced this by 20% because I was measuring by eye and am very bad at it!
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.

Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts. Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto sheets, spacing two inches apart. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you’re using it. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

These were much different than I expected but very good! They didn’t taste as much like Heath bars as I was hoping, so next time I will probably increase the ingredients to six bars. They were delicious and they all disappeared within hours! They were very brownie-like and full of chocolate.

17 Dec

I wore a similar outfit a few months ago: the same dress with the brooch attacked with red tights. It was a good transition to spring, but this one is perfect for early winter.

I love mustard yellow and this scarf was such a great purchase! I bought it in Salzburg, Austria.


I think I looked like a 1920s detective that day! This hat is proving to be a staple of my wardrobe this year–I’ve worn it nearly every day for two weeks! And I like how touch I look in these photos, haha.

Dress: Old Navy
Cardigan: Gap
Tights: Gap
Oxfords: Payless? I don’t remember.
Coat: Gap
Scarf: H&M
Brooch: Given to me by my grandmother
Cloche: Urban Outfitters

My first anniversary

Joseph and I got married December 17, 2007; that means we recently celebrated our first anniversary!
We were married while he was in the midst of a deployment in Iraq, so he wasn’t present at the ceremony. I was excited we were getting married but at the same time a bit sad that he could be with me for another few months, so I tried to find a dress with similarities to a classic wedding dress that could still function as a normal dress. A friend pointed me in the direct of a dress Anthropologie was selling and it was perfect!

Joseph’s father and step-mother, me, my father, mother, and sister on my wedding day

For our first anniversary I decided wearing the dress again would be perfect. I will never not think of it as my “wedding dress,” but I’d love an opportunity to wear it again. This was the first time he was able to see me in the dress, and it made our day very special.

I love the subtle reminiscence to a wedding dress. I wore it with a strand of pearls I bought while I was in high school in Okinawa, Japan and shoes from Target that catch the light well and match perfectly.

Joseph dressed up as well!

Joseph made me a delicious six-course meal! He is a much better cook than I am, and everything from the presentation to the taste was beyond amazing. I took no pictures since it was night-time and flash would ruin the photos.

First course: Herbed Crepes with Smoked Salmon and Radishes, with a Light Lemon-Kissed Cream Cheese Filling with Dill and Chives.
Second course: Lobster Tail, Avocado, and Grapefruit Salad with a Lemon-Shallot Dressing and Fresh Spinach Leaves Kissed With Sea Salt
Third course: Cast-Iron Seared Filet Mignon with Charred Onion Rings and Cucumbers, with a Slowly Reduced Balsamic-Burgundy Wine Sauce with Whole Shallots
Fourth course: Slow-Roasted and Caramelized Whole Plum Tomatoes With Coarse Sugar and Fresh Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Fifth course: Carrot-Garlic Puree and Celery Root-Garlic Puree
Sixth course: Tiramisu Affogato: A Deconstructed Tiramisu – Equal Parts of Coffee Ice Cream and Vanilla Ice Cream, with Italian Walnut-Almond Ladyfingers Coarsely Crumbled Over, Hot Espresso Poured On Top, and a Dollop of Homemade Whipped Cream, and Grazed with Freshly Grated Bittersweet Chocolate

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Inspired by this post at the LiveJournal community “picturing_food”, I made a peppermint bark with both white and dark chocolate! I altered her recipe slightly and they were really very delicious!

Peppermint Bark

I used Lind 70% cocoa bars and Nestle Tollhouse white chocolate chips for the dark and white chocolates. Using a good quality dark chocolate morsels would be very easy as well! The original recipe used semi-sweet Ghirardelli chips instead of dark chocolate, but I prefer dark.

2 bars 3.5 oz (100mg) Lindt Excellence Intense Dark Chocolate, chopped
1 bag 12 oz (340 g) Nestle Toll House Premiere White Morsels
candy canes or peppermint candies (I used miniature candy canes because they chopped up easily)
1 ¼ tsp. peppermint or mint extract (approx.) for peppermint extract, you might not want as much
1 tsp. vegetable oil

Line a 8×8 inch baking sheet or pan with wax paper or aluminum foil. Melt chocolate on low heat in saucepan. When halfway melted, add ¾ teaspoon peppermint extract and ½ teaspoon vegetable oil. Stir thoroughly until melted. Immediately spread over prepared baking sheet. Let cool for one hour.

Meanwhile, crush candy. To do this, place them in a Ziplock bag and use a hammer, rolling pin, foot, or whatever you please to crush them! I normally use a hammer, but I made these late at night and didn’t want to disturb my new neighbors; after realizing I don’t have the strength to crush with a rolling pin, I had my husband walk on the bag!

Melt white chocolate in saucepan over low heat. When half-melted, add ½ teaspoon peppermint extract and ½ teaspoon vegetable oil, stirring thoroughly. As soon as chocolate is fully melted, spread evenly over cooled dark chocolate. Sprinkle crushed candy on the top and place in the refrigerator until cooled. Peal wax paper off the back of the candy and break in pieces and enjoy!

My peppermint bark is much thicker than the average–I’m sure a more traditional thinner bark could be used by cutting the recipe in thirds or halves, or spreading the chocolate on a larger baking sheet. My peppermint extract measurements are approximated–have fun with it! This is a very easy recipe and a sure crowd-pleaser.

Peppermint Bark

Here is my Christmas tree and its twinkling lights!
Christmas tree
Every one of those presents is for my husband! He is completely spoiled :p

It still needs garland, but I did add a few nutcracker ornaments bought last week in Germany.
Nutcracker ornament

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