Christmas Break

So I realize I’m a little late in posting this, but whatever. Life happens, blizzards happen. You just never know. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share a few highlights of our Christmas break with you! Nick was able to take the week of Christmas off as my best friend and her family were coming to stay for the week. That meant that Nick had two and a half weeks off! It was awesome. Definitely no complaints from me!

The week before Christmas we were given a really great opportunity to do a tour of the White House with Nick’s alumni association. We had to be into the city about 8:30, but we hopped on the metro, and got there with time to spare. I didn’t really know what to expect, but you get to see some pretty cool things! It was definitely an experience I’ll remember.

These snowmen were out on the lawn How fun are they?!
White House Tour

Lincoln! I loved this portrait.
White House Tour

How many times will you get the opportunity to get your photo taken under the REAL presidential seal??
White House Tour

Our framily (friends that are family) arrived on Sunday afternoon, just in time to relax a bit before heading to church (I love 5:00 service!) The kids had never been to DC, so we headed out on Monday to see ALL THE THINGS. We walked almost 12 miles that day! Needless to say, by the end of the day, we were beat! The weather was great, so we were able to get some great shots at the city’s most iconic spots.

This was taken outside the Lincoln Memorial.
Christmas Break 2015

I had purchased tickets for us ahead of time to go up into the Washington Monument. You can save yourself a couple dollars a person, and wait in line first thing in the morning on the day you want to go, but we didn’t want the hassle of getting 7 people ready, and making it into the city on time to do that. So I sucked it up and paid for the tickets. No biggie. It was actually pretty cool! You take an elevator up to the observatory, and then on the way down, you can see some really intricate stones that were gifted from various states in the U.S.

Here was a great view of the Jefferson Memorial:
Christmas Break 2015

And the back of the White House:
Christmas Break 2015

We were also able to see the National Christmas Tree at night. It was so beautiful!
Christmas Break 2015

Christmas Break 2015<

After Christmas breakfast, gifts, and some full-on lounging about, we all piled in the car to head to Harpers Ferry for a Christmas hike. It was foggy and overcast, but we were able to enjoy a nice, easy hike before the rain hit.
Christmas Break 2015

We had such a fun time with friends, and it was so sad to see them leave. But we definitely made loads of memories together. We also had a family poker tournament on Christmas night, and we all lost to the 17 year old. He was really motivated to win the $20!

What fun things did you do for Christmas?

#blizzard #jonas

These two hashtags certainly were trending over the weekend here on the east coast! You know, I moved to Virginia thinking that I’d see just a little bit of snow over the winter, and laugh at how much people freaked out about it. But no! God certainly has a sense of humor! Evidently this area gets hit pretty darn hard every 5-6 years, and we moved the year that it was bound to happen. I have never, ever seen this much snow at one time. Now, being from Iowa I’ve seen my share of snow, ice, and cold, but this is something out of a movie. The final total for our city was 36.4 inches. 36.4 inches! I still can’t believe it.

We had plenty of warning for this storm, so we were prepared and got all of the necessities early in the week. I had to laugh on Friday morning because we stopped at Whole Foods on the way home from a doctor’s appointment, and the Califia case was demolished! There were maybe two containers of cold brew coffee left. I guess the vegans are afraid of running out of “milk”, too! Nick happened to have this past Friday off, and so after our Whole Foods run we ran a couple of last minute errands (not essential, but we had time, and it hadn’t started snowing yet anyway), and made sure to have lunch at our favorite Chinese place. We wanted some tasty leftovers!

We were just about 4-5 blocks from home when we started to see flurries. We got home, pulled the car in the garage (my car was safely tucked in at the town center parking ramp), shuffled everything upstairs and by the time we took Olive out a few minutes later it was full on SNOWING. They had said that the storm would start quickly, and they weren’t kidding! So after it started snowing it just kept snowing, and snowing, and snowing until late Saturday night. We woke up Sunday and it was beautiful. So white and peaceful. Thankfully, Nick had done his best to keep up on the driveway, so we were able to tag team it yesterday and get it down to the cement. It only took about 2 hours, but we did it! Oh! And when we sold our house in Iowa we left our shovels as part of the agreement. We bought one back in November thinking we’d never really have to use it. HA! Yesterday I shoveled it into a large rubbermaid and Nick hauled it over to the large mountain across the alley. (he also started a trend – all of our neighbors were seen doing the same thing shortly after!) I guess we might want to grab another shovel sometime in the future…just in case!

Now for some pictures!

After taking Olive for a walk on Saturday morning, Nick snapped a selfie in the middle of the action!
#jonas

This is a view from our balcony – this was taken Saturday afternoon while the storm was still raging on!
#jonas

Olive was a little upset with the amount of snow that covered the balcony. Her favorite spot in the house is her bed that sits right in front of the balcony door. And the snow totally overtook her view.
#jonas

Nick had to make himself a seat to take a break while throwing some balcony snow onto the driveway below. (taken Sunday morning)
#jonas

There are cars under there!
#jonas

Oh, you know. Just a few drifts and mountains of snow…
#jonas

I tried to get Olive to wear her winter hat yesterday, but she was not too excited about it.
#jonas

A lot of friends wondered how Olive liked the snow. She LOVES the snow. She had experienced snow last winter in Iowa, but she’d never seen so much! She loves the snow, but on Saturday, the cold, biting wind made her mad. She just kept shivering. Once she caught on that she could go back inside as soon as she did her business, it was a lot better for everyone! But yesterday while we were shoveling, her friend, Millie came over to play and they wrestled and played in the snow in our driveway. She’s happy today to be back in her spot looking out the window keeping tabs on the neighborhood. 😉

Nick’s office is closed today, and he feels confident it will likely be closed tomorrow so he’s working from home. We have no way of getting out of our neighborhood anytime soon. The roads are still completely snow covered. Every now and again you’ll run across a path made by a bobcat machine, but overall? There’s no way to get out. It’s been a good reminder to slow down and realize that we don’t need to be on the go all time time.

Nick and I were laughing the other day that we’ll be those people that tell our nieces and nephews in years to come, “Well, when were living in Virginia and winter storm Jonas hit in 2016…” Haha!

Did you experience any part of winter storm Jonas? I’d love to hear about it!

Shortbread Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies – Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

Yay! It’s the Food Blogger Cookie Swap recipe day! I love being a part of this every year. It’s so fun for me to bake for other people, and it’s fun to receive cookies, too! It’s always a pleasure to help support Cookies for Kids Cancer, and Oxo and Dixie Crystals always treat us bloggers so well! This year Oxo sent this great nesting measuring cup set, and Dixie Crystals sent a Silpat sheet for baking. Awesome! These definitely make my cookie baking more fun. 🙂
Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

This year was a bit crazy with shipping – sometimes it’s tough to be at the mercy of the USPS! The cookies I sent out were picked up on a Monday and then sat in a local facility for 3 days. Even though I’d paid for priority 2-day shipping! But they finally all made them to their intended recipients, so that’s always a good thing! My cookies were staggered out a bit, which was great, but one got stuck at the post office and I had to go and pick it up. Doesn’t USPS know how important cookies are?! 😉

The first cookies we received were from Kristen at Dinner for Two Blog. She made Chai Snickerdoodle cookies. They made it without much breakage, and they were crisp and you could really taste the chai in them! These would be great with coffee or tea – but we didn’t make it that far, haha!
Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

The second batch was from Kristina from Cucina Kristina. She had made Lemon Lavender Shortbread Cookies. The post office was not so nice to these, as they didn’t all arrive in once piece, but I was able to save a few to nibble on! They were crisp, buttery, and you could really taste the lavender!
Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

The batch I picked up at the post office were from Abby at The Frosted Vegan. She sent Maple Ginger Cookies with Dark Chocolate. These were still nice and soft, and had a great dark chocolate flavor with a good hit of ginger.
Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

It’s funny how my recipe came about. I wanted to make a vegan recipe gluten-free, and when I was testing the recipe, I swapped out the flours with no problem, but apparently forgot to add the brown sugar (although I didn’t know it at the time), so the cookies were buttery and crisper than usual. Not hard and crispy, mind you, just a more shortbread-like texture. The cookies were tested on vegans, non-vegans, and those were both gluten-free and not gluten-free. They were enjoyed by all, so I knew that they were a winner. When I went back to the recipe to bake the cookies for the swap, that was when I realized that I had forgotten the brown sugar the first time, but I missed it the second time, too! I even typed it in the recipe I sent to my cookie matches, so I guess now they’ll know that they can make these cookies TWO ways! How I missed it twice is beyond me, but the result was still a delicious and tasty cookie! And really? How can anything with Justin’s peanut butter cups be bad?!

Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

Shortbread Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
(recipe adapted from Sticky Fingers’ Sweets by Doron Petersan)

3/4 cup earth balance buttery sticks, softened
1 cup + 1 1/2 T (7.68 oz) evaporated cane juice
*(1 cup (7.7 oz) lightly packed brown sugar)*
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk (from the carton, not the can)
1/3 cup refined coconut oil, melted and cooled
3 1/4 cups + 2 1/2 T (1 pound, 1.25 oz) gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Namaste brand, but Bob’s Red Mill 1-for-1 Baking Flour would be a great choice, too)
1/3 cup (1.9 oz) brown rice flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup vegan mini chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life brand)
1 bag (4.7 oz) Justin’s dark chocolate mini peanut butter cups, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (or silpat mats) and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine earth balance, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed.
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together coconut milk and coconut oil. Slowly add mixture to the sugar mixture and mix to combine.
In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Add to the sugar mixture and mix until a dough forms. If the dough seems too dry, add 1 T of coconut milk at a time until the dough is your desired consistency. Add chocolate chips and chopped peanut butter cups, and mix to combine.
Using a cookie scoop, scoop onto prepared baking sheets. Leave about 2 to 3 inches between each cookie and gently flatten with your fingertips.
Bake for 9 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown. (these will be pale cookies, so be careful not to overbake!) Let cool on baking sheets about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Makes 3 1/2 dozen small cookies. Store in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days. These freeze very well, too!
*add brown sugar and try a new recipe, ha!

Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

I love being a part of the cookie swap every year. It has it’s challenges, as everything does, but it’s always so fun to share cookies and a love for baking. Happy Cookie Swap!

Santa Paws

Our favorite local pet store The Happy Hound was hosting an Christmas event this last Saturday, and we were so excited to take Olive. She’s super social, and loves to meet everyone. They had adoptable dogs, the Grinch, Santa Paws, and all kinds of treats and Christmas-y things. She met so many new friends, and could not contain her excitement. We waited in a line a few minutes for her picture with Santa Paws, and I have to say, I am so happy with how they came out. They’re so funny! Olive is so expressive, and she was not so sure about a giant dog sitting next to her.

Here I feel like she’s thinking, “What in world is that? That is NOT a real dog.” Lil Sis said she was giving him major “side eye”.
Santa Paws - 3

Okay, so now she’s giving him a chance. Figuring maybe he can’t be too bad because Nick doesn’t seem to be afraid of him. 😉
Santa Paws - 2

Now I think she’s thinking, “Okay, I sat here long enough. I’m ready to go and sniff other dogs and eat stuff off the ground.”
Santa Paws - 1

We had such a fun time, and she totally passed out when we got home. It’s definitely super dog-friendly around here, and it’s so fun that there are so many great opportunities to get Olive out and about. It’s so great to see her having so much fun. 🙂