Photo Therapy: Across the Pond

Our trip to London in August was so fabulous. London now has a special place in my heart because this trip was where Ian and I took our first international vacation together and where we decided to make the big decision to move-in together. I thought I’d share a few photos from the trip with you. My favorite part of the trip was going on the Jack the Ripper tour – my father had always wanted me to go on this and it did not disappoint. Our tour guide, Donald Rumbelow, was fabulous and I eagerly bought his book and read it over the course of our trip. I highly recommend his book!

On the trip we also managed to: see the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, drink at the bar Churchill frequented, cross London Bridge, see the Arnolfini Portrait (which was on my bucket list), enjoy a full English breakfast, take afternoon tea at the Kensington Palace Orangery and attend the Buckingham Palace summer exhibit which had Kate Middleton’s McQueen wedding gown on display (it is so gorgeous in person).

What are some of your favorite places to travel?

Ashley

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Photo Therapy: My First Bouquet

Today is a very special day…

Ian gifted me with my first bouquet. Neither he nor I have ever been huge on giving or getting flowers but I have to say, his surprise has really cheered up my day. Didn’t he do a beautiful job picking the flowers?

I hope these photos cheer you up as well (no sense in me ‘hogging’ all the love).

Happy Tuesday!

Ashley

Scenes from Our Christmas

I hope everyone had a safe and fulfilling Christmas (for those who celebrate it). I wanted to share with you some scenes from our wonderful celebrations:

My mother always decorates the most beautiful trees but I especially enjoyed her frosty tree this year:

Isn’t it beautiful?

My mom actually decorated the whole house in a frosty winter white. Look how she decorated the mantle:

Apollo also got into the holiday spirit:

My sister gave my Mom some adorable Kate Spade slippers too. Don’t they look fabulous?

My Mom gave Apollo a very festive gift too:

After celebrating Christmas with my family, Ian and I went down to Indiana to celebrate Christmas with his family. Doesn’t his mother do a beautiful job decorating too?

Merry Christmas (one last time)!

Ashley

My Favorite Festive Cupcakes

Last night I realized I hadn’t planned anything as gifts for my co-workers… and I felt like a deer in headlights. With at least twelve co-workers to find gifts for, I had to think of something relatively inexpensive but still thoughtful since I do work with these people every single day.

While I was running around the grocery store last night with an idea of making reindeer food (puppy chow in mason jars with cute tags), the reality of making 24 cups of puppy chow hit me. I didn’t even have enough bowls for the job, not to mention that I don’t have a car here in the city so I would have to lug home over six boxes of cereal, four bags of chocolate chips… yikes!

Luckily I happened to be in the baking aisle when this epiphany hit and like a small Christmas miracle, a large box of red velvet cake mix was on the shelf right in front of me and I began to think. Cupcakes are pretty easy to make in large quantities… Plus. Red velvet cupcakes are festive… Plus! Red currants, the most festive berry, just happened to be in stock in the produce aisle… Plus. And then I realized it: there were no minuses to this plan.

So if you are looking for a thoughtful last-minute gift idea, try these out!

My Favorite Super Easy Festive Cupcakes

What You’ll Need:

1 box of red velvet cake mix

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, but I recommend it!)

3 teaspoons milk

1 bag chocolate chunks, for garnish

1 carton of red currants, for garnish

Directions:

Make red velvet mix as directed for cupcakes. Meanwhile mix powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract until they form a pourable icing. Once cupcakes are done (a toothpick should be able to poke through them cleanly) pull out of the oven and drizzle icing as desired. Once cupcakes have cooled for about ten minutes, place a small pile of chocolate chunks on top. Garnish with a small sprig of red currants.

And enjoy! Yes, it’s that easy.

These are especially delicious to enjoy in front of the Christmas tree, it creates the right atmosphere:

Ashley

P.s. For some reason these cupcakes make me think of another red and chocolate dessert:

Chicago’s Christmaskindl Market

Every Christmas Chicago’s Daley Plaza is transformed into a german Christmas wonderland known as the Christmaskindl Market (http://www.christkindlmarket.com/en/). Rows of evergreen covered timber houses sell festive goods under the shadow of Chicago’s Christmas Tree while merry visitors sip mulled wine and eat spiced nuts to the sound of choirs singing. It’s almost as if Rick Steve’s European Christmas were transported to this cement plaza right in the heart of the Loop.

Yesterday Ian and I were lucky enough to have a few moments to run over there on our lunch break and enjoy the [less crowded than the weekends] splendor. This market has a special place in my heart: my father took me here for the first time about five years ago and we went every year until he became ill. My father had been to Germany over ten times and said that this market was remarkably similar to its German counterparts – right down to the vendors, who are all German.

If you have a chance to visit the Christmaskindl Market make sure you (i) stand in the long lines for the glass ornament houses, they’re so worth the visit and (ii) try the spiced wine and eat something with sauerkraut (unless you’re a wuss like Ian).

And don’t forget to snack on some delicious potato pancakes and bratwurst…

Happy Holidays!

Ashley

Supplemental Reading:

For the Love of Nike’ s post on the Christmaskindl Market: http://fortheloveofnike.com/2011/12/02/christkindlmarket-chicago-german-christmas-festival/

TooTallFritz’s post: http://tootallfritz.com/2011/12/11/tacky-christmas-has-arrived/

Vino Con Vista’s post: http://vinoconvistablog.me/2011/12/14/christkindlmarket-chicago-2011/