Friday, December 28, 2012

My 12 Favorite Travel Photos for 2012

I'm crazy about travel.  I love the idea of discovering new destinations and revisiting old favorites.  That I get to photograph it all and savor the memories later, is an extra bonus.  The rest of the world is catching on, pretty much everyone has a digital camera now and and we're all shutterbugs, capturing the world in our own unique way. 

This year I visited Vancouver, Alaska, Portland and the Oregon Coast.  I also checked out the Skagit County Tulip Festival in Washington, a sight that I'll never forget.  In Seattle, my own backyard, we had a couple new additions to this already incredible city-the Great Wheel on the Waterfront and the Dale Chuhuly Glass Museum at Seattle Center.  Here's my 12 favorite travel shots I took from these places in 2012, posted in order from the beginning of the year. 

1.  Vancouver, BC.

Because of the Olympics in 2012, Vancouver has grown even more with Condos springing up everywhere.  This shot, taken on our weekend trip in February, was taken in a downtown park near the water and the Olympic Cauldron.  Click here to see my Vancouver post. 

2. The Skagit County Tulip Festival in Mt. Vermon, WA.

I loved all the colorful tulips from the Tulip Festival.  My favorites were these pink ones.  It was neat seeing the tulips as far as the eye could see.  Click here for more of my tulip shots from the festival this year. 

3.  The Chuhuly Garden and Glass Museam at Seattle Center.

What a beautiful new addition to Seattle, Chuhuly's Glass Museum.  The pieces are so colorful and intricate.  Click here to find out more about the Museum and to see more of my photography of the glass structures.

4.  Palmer, Alaska

This year my brother got married in Palmer, Alaska, which is about an hour drive from Anchorage.  They tied the knot near this cool looking barn with the gorgeous peaks as a backdrop.  Click here to see the post of their wedding. 

5. Anchorage, Alaska

Who goes to Alaska to photograph skyscrapers?  Me, that's who.  Although the city was smaller than I though, it still has tons of charm, wonderful restaurants and a lot to photograph.  Click here to see more from my trip to Alaska. 

6.  A panoramic view from Seattle's Great Wheel.

My husband and I took a ride on the Great Wheel in late July.  The views were awesome and the sun was starting to set, resulting in some nice shots of my fair city.  Click here for more. 

7.  The Seattle Skyline photographed from the ferry.  

I love the new addition of the Ferris Wheel.  It reminds me of Santa Monica and London's Wheel.  When my husband and I took the Bainbridge Island Ferry in August, I looked out the window and got a new perspective on the skyline.  I took out my Nikon and started shooting, thinking yes, this is the reason I moved to the big city.  Its ever changing and growing structures means there's always things to shoot and keep me inspired.  Click here to see more of my photos of the skyline and our ferry ride.

8.  Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, OR.

This October my husband and I drove to Oregon for five days.  We stopped in Portland for lunch and a doughnut at Voodoo and then drove to the Coast.  We waited in line at Voodoo for about thirty minutes, not realizing what a cult following it has.  I enjoyed my doughnuts and was glad I checked it out.  Click here to see my post. 

9.  The Oregon Coast, Newport, OR. 

Ever since my first trip to the Oregon Coast when I was ten, I've loved it and always had a thing for it.  On my last trip there, I took a walk along the beach everyday, listening to my ipod, breathing in the fresh sea air and watching the waves lap up onto shore.  We stayed at a hotel right on the beach, so I could just walk down the stairclimb and I was on the beach.  Click here to see more photography from the Oregon Coast.

10.  Yaquina Head Bay-Newport, OR.

This was our view from our hotel, Yaquina Head Bay with the Lighthouse.  Yaquina Head Lighthouse is my favorite one on the Oregon Coast.  Click here for more photos. 

11. Yaquina Head Lighthouse- Newport, OR

My husband and I got to climb to the top and we recieved an awesome view of the Pacific Ocean.  This is one of my favorite spots to be. 

12.  The Sea Lions at Newports' Historic Bayfront. 

You've gotta love all the sweet looking sea lions sunbathing.  Everyone had their cameras out, shooting pictures of these friendly guys hanging out.  There was plenty to see and do in Newport, OR.  Click here to see more from my trip. 

I hope you've enjoyed looking at my recap of travel photography from 2012.  Thanks for reminiscing with me!  


Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Top 12 Food and Drinks for 2012

The year 2012 has had its ups and downs just like any other year.  But I've still gotta eat and this year I definitely did.  Food plays a huge part in our lives.   It not only sustains us and keeps us alive but is always the centerpiece for family gatherings and celebrations in every culture.   Everyone has a favorite food, a restaurant they love eating at, or a memorable dish they make for special occasions.  I, like a lot of others, am always on the search for that perfect cup of hot chocolate, that unforgettable cupcake or doughnut, or that unique cocktail.  This year, my search was successful and I want to highlight some of the best things I've tasted. 

Here's my top 12 Food and Drinks for the year 2012 in the order I posted them:

1.  The Chocolate Chaud at Cafe Presse in Seattle. 

This lovely french hot chocolate, called Chocolate Chaud, was so rich and chocolaty that I could barely drink it all.  The best I found outside of France.  If you still haven't checked out Cafe Presse, go! Click here my post about Cafe Presse. 

2.  The 24 Carrot Cupcake from Cupcakes in Vancouver, BC. 

Back in February my husband and I spent the weekend in Vancouver, a beautiful gem of a city a few hours north of Seattle.  We popped into this adorable cupcake shop on West Broadway called Cupcakes and we ate this delicious, moist, full of raisons, carrot cupcake with super thick cream cheese icing.  Next time we visit Vancouver I may just get another one.  Click here to see my Vancouver post. 

3.  The Parini Sidecar from Tutta Bella in Seattle. 

This drink was so unique and refreshing.  The Parini Sidecar has Italian Brandy, Grappa, Gran Gala and a float of Pear Brandy.  I've even got back to Tutta Bella to try it again because it tasted so good the first time.  The second time didn't dissapoint either.  If you want to read about my visit to Tutta Bella, you can just click here

4.  Homemade Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Out of 12 favorite things only one of them is something I made at home.  Why? Well as much as I love experimenting with recipes, at the end of the day I'm just not a chef nor a pastry chef.  But even I have to admit, spinning a new twist on an old classic like Banana Bread, was a hit.  Click here for my Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe. 

5.  Chocolate Covered Potato Chips from Trader Joe's. 

Sometimes if its wrong, you don't want to be right.  That was the case when I bit into this unbelievable snack.  Just imagine, the best of both worlds, chocolate and potato chips, together.  So good.... Click here to see my post about Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. 

6.  Foie Gras with Frites from Quinn's in Seattle. 

Foie Gras had been on my foodie list for a while.  Undeniably delicious and unforgettable.  I enjoyed the gravy on the fries and the foie gras melted in my mouth.  Want to hear more about my experience eating at Quinn's and find out more about the restaurant?  Just click here

7.  The Avive Peach Sparkling Wine from Luc in Seattle. 

The weekend of September 7th was one of the last warm and sunny weekends Seattle had this year.  We spent it dining outside at Luc, soaking up the sun while eating and drinking our way through the Happy Hour Menu.  We each started with a glass of this Peach Sparkling Wine.  It was crisp and hit the spot, exactly what the perfect drink should do.  Want to check out their Happy Hour?  Check out my post about Luc by clicking here

8.  The dessert Thali at Poppy in Seattle.

This dessert from Poppy was out of this world good.  My husband and I shared it after making our way through the happy hour menu.  From the apricot sorbet to the cocoa-nib shortbread's, the nutter butter squares, chocolate truffle torte and even more, its a dessert experience I'll never forget.  Click here to see more. 

9.  Raspberry French Macaron at Le Panier in Seattle. 

I learned that Le Panier in Pike Place Market is the place for French Macaron's.  This raspberry one was a solid choice.  They have so many more flavors that I bet are just as good.  Click here to see my post about Le Panier. 

10.  The Bacon Maple Bar from Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland. 

Just look at this.  How can you go wrong with a thick doughnut slathered in maple icing and then topped with two huge slices of crisp bacon?  I'm salivating.  I want another!  Click here to read more about my visit to Voodoo Doughnuts. 

11.  The Crab Artichoke Fondue from Georgie's Beachside Grill in Newport, OR.

Fondue was another of those on my foodie lists for a while.  While in Newport, OR for my birthday this year, I finally got to try some at Georgie's Beachside Grill.  It was, well, cheesy.  I loved the crab on top and I totally indulged.  I even got to watch the sunset on the Pacific Ocean while I ate.  For more about my time in Newport and the food I ate, click here

12.  The Salted Caramel Cupcake from Pinkabella Cupcakes

This was the best cupcake of all time.  I must admit to having eaten another one since the one pictured here.  The chocolate cake was so moist and fluffy, the salted caramel buttercream was awesome and the caramel sauce on top was crazy good.  To see my original post, click here

Well, there you have it!  Top 12 for 2012.  Hopefully next year I'll have 13 for 2013.  Here's to delicious and memorable food and drinks! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tomato Avocado Salad and Cranberry Nut Bread

As part of my Christmas Eve lunch I made a salad with tomatoes, avocado, basil, mozzarella and bleu cheese with olive oil.  I was experimenting and just threw a few ingredients together.  The result was a light refreshing salad and it had a festive look to it. 

                                                             Tomato Avocado Salad

Serves two people or one large serving

1 avocado
1 tomato
1 T. olive oil
1/4 c. basil
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. bleu cheese crumbles

Slice avocado and tomato into small chunks.  Stir; add olive oil.  Stir again and add basil and the two cheeses.  Add more or less cheese if you want, I just "eyed" everything.  Hopefully this gives you some ideas of new salads to make.  I know I get tired of the same leaf salads all the time. 

My mom always made Cranberry Nut Bread when I was a kid at Christmastime.  The last two years I've continuted the tradition and had it for Christmas morning.  She originally found the recipe on a bag of fresh cranberries.  I've always loved the nuts, cranberries and orange in it. 

                                                          Cranberry Nut Bread

1 c. cranberries, coarsly chopped
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1 T. grated orange peel
2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 T. shortening
3/4 c. orange juice
1 egg, well beaten

Prepare cranberries, nuts and orange peel.  Set aside.  In a bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and soda.  Cut in shortening.  Stir in orange juice and egg, mixing just to moisten.  Fold in cranberry mixture.  Spoon into greased and floured 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.  Bake 60 minutes at 350 degrees or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.  Remove from pan, cool completely.  Wrap and store overnight. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dinner at Via Tribunali

When it comes to pizza I'm not picky.  I'm the type of person who'll be super happy with a frozen pepperoni pizza.  Have some salad with a couple of slices and that's a favorite meal for me.  So when it comes to these authentic wood fired pizza places everywhere in Seattle, I'm on the fence.  I know the ingredients are fresh and that if you go to Italy, this is the pizza you'd probably find.  But it just doesn't rock my boat.  I love a greasy slice with cheese oozing everywhere and pepperoni everywhere.  I like my slice slathered on thick and even with a little kick to it.  I find some of these pizza places to have really light marinara, or pomodoro as its called, hardly any mozzarella, and sadly, pepperoni just isn't on "real pizza".  But, yes, I can appreciate the pizza for what it is.  It's local, fresh and truly authentic.  I also know everyone else loved the stuff, its just not my favorite.  And each to their own, right? 

So I always forget how I really feel about all this until I'm sitting in the pizzeria with the pizza in front of me.  Last night my husband and I had dinner at Via Tribunali in Georgetown. The pizza is super thin and expensive.   They're twelve inches so if you share you each get two really thin slices.  We ordered the Funghi, mushroom pizza, and a salad with aruguala and grana padano, a hard Italian cheese.  The quality of the food was high and enjoyable but it still wasn't my greasy, cheesy, pepperoni that I love. 

Our Insalata Di Parma, baby arugula, grana padano and lemon.

The Funghi, oven-roasted mushrooms, pomodoro, fresh mozzarella, basil, grana padano.

The reason I wanted to check out Via Tribunali was for the dessert- the Tartufo Affogato.  Affogato is a scoop of gelato with a shot of espresso poured over the top.  In Italian, Affogato means drowned.   This one is with hazelnut gelato but its typically served with vanilla.  The best of both worlds, ice cream and espresso together. 

Take a bite!  Only a few scoops of gelato left, now its time to drink the espresso with melted gelato!  No wonder it took forever to fall asleep last night.  Did you know in Italy, its considered taboo to have espresso late in the day?  Most Italians consume it in the morning standing at a counter either in a straight shot or in a cappuccino.

Via Tribunali is has two locations in Seattle, in Georgetown and in Capital Hill.  Click here to see their website.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Snowball Cookies

I remember seeing these on cookie trays as a kid, maybe I even tried one before.  But I had never made Snowball's before until yesterday.  They're the perfect Christmas cookie because of the name and the chopped pecans when you bite into them.  The cookie dough is just butter, flour, sugar and vanilla with the nuts.  They bake for about twenty minutes and then comes the dipping part.  You roll them in powdered sugar not once but twice.  Right out of the oven and then again when they cool.  These cookies took me a couple hours to make but when my husband and a friend bit into them and said they loved them, it was totally worth it. 

I found the recipe for Snowball Cookies at


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups finely chopped pecans

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

Powdered sugar
Heat oven to 325°F. Combine all ingredients except powdered sugar in large bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until well mixed.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 18-25 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes; roll in powdered sugar while still warm and again when cool.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thumbprint Cookies with Raspberry Jelly

When I was a child my mom made Thumbprint cookies every year for Christmas.  Now that I'm married, I've continued the tradition and make them every year, too.  The cookie dough is rolled in egg white and then some chopped nuts.  Right before baking them you use your thumb and make an indent for the jelly, which is added after baking. 

All is takes is one bite of these cookies and that magical, nostalgic feeling of Christmas comes to me.  The same feeling I get when I smell fresh pine or hear a favorite Christmas song.  The joy of Christmas is a powerful one, a time that only comes once a year. 

Below is my mom's recipe for Thumbprints.  She originally found the recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. 

                                                          Thumbprint Cookies

1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. shortening
2 eggs, separated
2 c. flour
1 1/2 finely chopped nuts

Mix thoroughly butter, shortening, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla.  Work in flour and salt until dough holds together.  Shape dough by teaspoonfuls into 1 inch balls.  Beat egg white slightly.  Dip each ball into egg white; roll in nuts.  Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet; press thumb deeply into center of each.  Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes or until light brown.  Immediately remove from baking sheet; cool.  Fill thumbprints with jelly.  Store in airtight container.  This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chocolate Walnut Fudge

Fudge!  Who doesn't just love it?  Especially to eat around Christmas.  Two years ago I found a recipe for Chocolate Walnut Fudge with Sea Salt while watching the Today Show with Hoda and Kathy Lee.  I wrote down the recipe and made it.  The fudge was a hit and even though I gave some away I had lots left and I remember eating it through New Years'.  The recipe calls for sea salt and I didn't have any so I used regular table salt.  This year, armed with sea salt, I made the fudge yesterday and I loved the addition.  It calls for a dash, but I used about four dashes and the salty taste is a welcome surprise with the semi sweet chocolate and walnuts. 

                                                           Chocolate Walnut Fudge

3 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
dash, or a few, of sea salt
1 c. walnuts
1 1/2 t. vanilla

Line 8 or 9 inch square pan with foil and melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in nuts and vanilla.  Spread into pan and chill for 2 hours.  Cut into pieces.  Store in refrigerator.  Try not to eat the whole batch to yourself.  Sharing is caring!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Spinach Salad

Today my husband and I made a spinach salad for a pot luck we'll be attending.  The salad had pears, bleu cheese crumbles and candied pecans.  Then its topped with an olive oil and vinegar dressing.  Since we'd never done candied pecans before, we experimented a little and ended up enjoying the end result.  Now we know how to make it for next time. 

Here's how to prepare the salad and how to make your own candied pecans:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  We used about 1 cup of pecans.  Take 1 egg and separate it, only using the egg white.  Mix the egg white with 1 T. of warm water. Take pecans and mix in bowl of egg white and water, coating the nuts.  In a separate zip lock, mix together sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon.  How much depends on how many pecans you are using.  Then take your coated pecans and pour in sugar mixture.  Make sure all pecans are coated, then pour on baking sheet into one layer. 

The pecans, after being coated in the egg wash and sugar mixture.  Now they're ready to bake.

Bake for about 25 minutes, turning after 10 minutes of baking.  Let cool, then take a knife or spatula and cut into small pieces.  Add to salad. 

Wash and cut spinach.  Slice 1 pear into small slices.  Toss together with bleu cheese crumbles and candied pecans.  Coat in dressing.  We used Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Downtown Seattle at Christmas

I've always loved Downtown Seattle all lit up for Christmas.  I went downtown late this afternoon to run a couple of errands.  When I exited the metro underground and arrived in front of Westlake Center, the sky was my favorite color.  That beautiful blue color that lights the sky before its really dark.  I hadn't been downtown all season so I was looking forward to seeing the huge Christmas Tree, the Macy's star and all the other decorations.  I didn't have my nice Nikon with me but sometimes a cell phone is better than nothing.  I hope you enjoy my snapshots of the beautiful city I live in and are feeling the Christmas spirit.  December moves so fast.  Don't forget to savor each moment of the holiday season!