Birthday After Birthday After Birthday…

I turned 25 last week. I have officially hit the 25 years old milestone. According to Skype I am now 25 and some. That is what it says in my profile. Thanks Skype for reminding me that I’m old and not just that I’m 25, I am more than 25. Turning 25 feels weird. I feel like I have to have my life together now. I can’t say “oh well I did that because I’m 24,” or I feel that I can no longer think I’m going to move every couple of months. 25 is serious business. Luckily the way my birthday turned out, it doesn’t seem like its going to be that bad—key words that bad ;).

My birthday, January 16th, started the very long stretch of birthdays of the people of love. February has a birthday every weekend, so you can expect lots of birthday dessert pictures to come. This post is from my birthday where I celebrated at D Bar in Denver. If you live in Denver and have not gone yet, go immediately! I had espresso soufflé. They also have amazing cookies and milk and cake and milkshakes. I also got a birthday shot; cake flavored vodka with a coated rim of sprinkles.

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I think my sister takes the win for the best face in this one :)

The next day my sister kept the birthday love going and had me and my best friend Allegra (she’s a frequent model for this blog) over. We started with cheese then Kara surprised me by cooking paella! It was seriously so good! For dessert we had an almond cake with whip cream and topped with slices of clementines. If getting old means you get to eat like this I guess turning 25 isn’t that bad…

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Henry always has to make an appearance! He is getting so big! John, my brother-in-law is teaching him how to fetch a frisbee.

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Happy Belated Birthday

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My mom turned 60 on November 29th of last year. My sister and I brought her out to Denver to stay with us for a weekend to celebrate this grand birthday. With December being busy and the New Year sneaking up on me my mom’s birthday post somehow got pushed aside. But alas it gets the glory it deserves. I of course had to make a dessert and this time I picked cream puffs. It is a recipe I’ve made before, which I try to avoid and get creative,  but I knew it was a favorite of my moms. If you want to impress a crowd with a recipe that took you no time and barely any ingredients make these. Seriously look at how fancy these look.

Cream Puff Recipe

For the filling I just whipped up some cream and then melted dark chocolate chips for the drizzle.

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This was what we had for our in-home birthday celebration but for our go out meal we went to Old Major. We had the winter squash soup, the squid, the ham and biscuits, smoked pork shank carbonara, the nose to tail plate, the cheesy anson mills grits, and the pork fat fries. I can barely breath just thinking about all this food. Everything was devine. The squash soup had so much flavor your taste buds screamed for more. The biscuits were light and fluffy in the ham and in biscuits and the cream eggy flavor was so rich in the carbonara. The nose to tail plate was like a treasure hunt and almost an experiment as we sat there urging each one of us to try the different kinds of meats.

We almost didn’t order the side of grits and boy oh boy I am glad we did. With out a doubt these were the best grits I have ever tasted. I am a midwest girl so that might not say much but I did live in South Carolina and tried all kinds of grits down there and the grits from Old Major are the big league. You took a bite and tasted the butter and felt the bits of grit texture and your month waits for the familiar heavy feeling that grits haveto come but wait it never does. These grits were like eating a pillow, or a cloud. Just amazing. Oh and I almost forgot about the pretzel bread and butter; so good.

The grits weren’t the only thing on the menu that was shockingly good but also the orange spice sorbet. We were so full we didn’t want to get anything heavy so my mom just ordered the sorbet to get just get “something.” It was incredible. Sweet, tart citrus flavor with an amazing sorbet crystallized texture.

Seriously just go. Run there now.

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Winter Squash Soup

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Smoked Pork Shank Carbonara

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Squid

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Nose to Tail Plate

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Grits and Pork Fat Fries

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Eating While Writing – Breaking and Entering: Freelance Writing

Check out my second post on ProfessionGal

When you are a writer, you read publications in a different way than the average reader.

TAKE A MAGAZINE FOR EXAMPLE.

When I read a magazine for the first time, I immediately flip to the editorial page. I look to see how many editors they have on staff and if they have interns—probably an old habit from looking for internships. I then start flipping through the pages, read the headlines and subjects, and think of ways I could write something for that section. I then go back through a second time and read it like anyone else. The first is what you should be doing if you want to start freelance writing.

The rest of the story.

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Happy New Year!

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Happy 2014 everyone!! I hope everyone had a great time celebrating the new year! I flew to South Carolina so celebrate the new year with my old friends from when I lived there. We hit up all my old favorites like Poe’s on Sullivan’s Island and I finally had my first pain killer (now called game changer) from Home Team.

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I couldn’t bring myself to buy a real ticket and decided to risk it and fly standby around the holiday. It went shockingly well. So I learned I will not throw in the towel just yet for my non-revenue travels. What I did learn though was not to talk on the phone while you are in line to get on the plane. I forgot my water bottle at the chair I was next to at the gate and sat in the wrong seat. You would have thought it was my first time flying.

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Can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for me…

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The Three Days of Christmas

Christmas for me was all about eating. I know that is pretty standard for everyone when it comes to the holidays, but this year I think I really took it up a notch. Let me explain it to you in a more simple way, in a song (a much shortened song).

On the first day of Christmas, or Christmas eve, I made for dinner: gruyere and chive puffs for appetizers, lemon and herb cornish hen, green beans with crisp shallots, wild mushroom and gruyere gratin, and roasted carrots. (You’ll have to let your imagination help you hear the melody to 12 Days of Christmas with that).

(Uncle Eddie made an appearance)

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On the second night of Christmas, or Christmas Day, I made for dinner: a 5.71 lb bone in prime rib roast for two, a Madeira wine sauce, cheesy potatoes, and brussel sprouts.

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I’m not normally the person who buys the meat in the house so when I got up to the meat counter I panicked and bought enough for a small army. Surprisingly though, there was not much leftovers; it was that good.

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On the third day of Christmas, or the Friday after, I made for dinner: traditional polish cheese pierogies and kielbasa.

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Henry wanted to help!

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And a partridge in a pear tree!

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My Two Favorite Things; Cheese and Roger Federer

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My train rolled into Geneva at 5:30 pm and the dark was just setting in. I got out and started to walk to my hostel when I saw the snowboarders standing waiting to get on the train and that’s when it set in that I was in Switzerland. And that I was in the land of my lover…Roger Federer.

I walked to my hostel nervous about my first official alone hostel experience. I am one of those people who has a hard time with hostels. I’m outgoing and love meeting people but when its forced I feel like I’m back in college and its freshman year where you walk around asking if people will be your friend. My nightmare. So I walked into that hostel (Geneva Youth Hostel) with my positive thinking cap on. When I walked into my room there were two Canadian girls there talking about what they were planning on doing that evening which was eating fondue. I quickly channeled my inner freshman spirit and invited myself along. It ended up being just fine.

We dined right on Lake Geneva at a restaurant called La Buvette des Bains. Its was at the end of a pier where the public swimming area and the public bathhouse are. It definitely has the hole in the wall feeling so instantly I  felt like it was going to be good. It also almost felt like you were sitting  in a cabin in the mountains somewhere. We showed up without reservations and were lucky enough to snag some seats even though there were lots of empty tables. When they pointed out their reservation system they pointed to a wall of post its. They were very advanced, but once again another sign it was going to be good. Another interesting thing about this restaurant is it is community dinning so we got sat at table of eight with four seats already occupied. We didn’t have to deal with the awkward small talk because our neighbors spoke French which was good but we might have missed some potential best friends though.

Fondue is the national dish of Switzerland. It is traditionally made with cheese, wine, seasoning, garlic and kirsch. Kirsch is a fruit brandy traditionally made with cherries. You can get fondues with different things in them like mushrooms, onions, meats, etc. The earliest record of fondue dates back to the late 1600′s and at that point they added eggs to it which makes it like a souffle as well. It was created for winter times by peasants in the mountains because they cooked what they had; bread, cheese and wine. Fondue took a big turn when cornstarch was added in 1905 which made it not separate and very smooth. There is controversy over whether the dish was created by the French or the Swiss but the Swiss locked in as theirs in 1930.

The fondue was delicious. It was hearty, earthy, and immediately stick to your ribs good, which was good considering it was probably below zero with windchill (I’m for sure exaggerating). We just got bread to dip in our cheese but you can also get a meat plate that has carne secca, a dried Spanish meat, pickles, and pearl onions. Fondue in Geneva, since it has a heavy French influence, is made with half gruyère and Fribourg-style vacherin, which is  a cow’s milk cheese. Another littler fact is we never found chocolate fondue. Clearly an American thing.

We finished our bread when there was still a little bit of cheese left but we weren’t too upset and didn’t order more because we were pretty full. We got some strange looks when we didn’t finish our fondue but we didn’t understand why. It was at the next restaurant in the old town that I read about how you are supposed to finish fondue. The crusty, not burnt, cheese crisp the cheese turns into at the bottom of the pot is the best part of fondue. They sometimes put a splash of wine on it to help it become golden. Clearly I didn’t do enough research on my fondue. Who know there would be these secrets.

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We walked around the old town and stopped in for hot chocolate and crème brûlée. I also made sure to use a Suisse Credit ATM. I felt like that was something you have to do.

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I got up the next morning for sunrise; it was at 8 a.m.  so it was not impressive. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy on top of the alps so it wasn’t the best sunrise but still pretty.

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St. Pierre Cathedral

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Maison Tavel

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The famous flower clock.

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Dijon Part Deux

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In my previous post I mentioned that I didn’t have time to eat in Dijon. That was a mishap on my planning side but what I made sure I had enough time for was buying the traditional food; so I could try it when I got home.

I did my research so I was prepared and the first stop was for pain d’épices which means spiced bread. This bread is a traditional French bread and is very well known for the Dijon area. It is made traditionally with rye flour, honey and spices. First thing you notice when you take a bite is the dense cake/bread consistency. Then the spices and then the almost overwhelming honey flavor. Honey can taste very different from different regions of the world and this one is extremely floral. With that said I still loved it but if you aren’t a honey lover you could have an issue with it. It is perfect for this time of year.

The second item on my shopping list was mustard. I got traditional grainy dijon mustard and I have to save it is the best mustard I have ever tasted. I wasn’t shocked by this discovery, considering it originated there, but still when I tasted it my eyes opened wide and I had to saw wow. I can’t describe really why its better but it is fresher and has a more powerful punch. What can I say if you are a mustard person I guess you should add Dijon to your “places to go” list.

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Dijon: More than just Mustard

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J’adore Dijon France. I loved my time there; my two hours there to be exact. I was travel ambitious and planned to visit Dijon then make my way to Geneva, Switzerland before nightfall. In result of this squeezing two cities and two train rides into eight hours I did not get to have my fabulous leisure lunch in Dijon and I made it to Geneva maybe five minutes before it was dark. But with that said I would not have had my December 1st any other way.

I didn’t start planning my trip till the Sunday before my trip, and I left on Tuesday. When I tried to purchase my train tickets online, the type of tickets I was purchasing were not available to be printed they needed to be mailed. So that was a no go since I dind’t leave enough time for that. So on December 1st at 8 am I found myself in the Gare du Nord train station at the kiosk trying to purchase my ticket. Luckily, since it was a main train station, the ticket office was open and I was able to get a real person to help me pick the best times/tickets and also accept my credit card (tougher to find than you would think).

I was traveling on a Sunday so I knew things would be closed but I didn’t think that would be something I enjoyed but it really made my trip even better.

What I saw in Dijon while strolling around was the real French life. I saw families walking around. A man running to the patisserie to pick up his baquette then finishing his morning run home. Kids and families enjoying the holidays and ice skating in the city center. I felt like someone had invited me in to their personal life and I was there to watch and observe. I also was trying my best to look, speak, and act French—I wore my beret.

Dijon is known for the mustard, obviously, and they have another little gem, an owl on the side of the Notre Dame Cathetral. If you walk around the city you can find a walking tour of different sites all marked and arrorws leading to each stop. The path will lead you pas the owl on the cathedral. It is a good luck charm and you are supposed to rub the owl with your left hand make a wish. It was beautiful watching people walk by the owl. Even if they had walked by 100 times before it was just a simple act to rub the owl.

Since I didn’t have enough time for lunch at a restaurant in Dijon I settled for a jambon et buerre baguette (ham and butter) on the train. I also remembered I had put a pain au chocolate in my purse from the hotel breakfast earlier that morning. This visit if you asked me if there was a pain au chocolate in my purse the answer would have be yes 99 percent of the time.

I sat there on the train and watched the French coutry side. I sipped on my coke and smiled to myself. I reached into my purse and pulled out the smushed pastry wrapped in napkins then thought nah I’m not hungry for that. I went to put it back in my purse then thought who am I kidding and pulled it back out and took a big bite.

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The marker for each stop and the arrows leading you to each stop.

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The good luck owl.

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Had to get a photo of this family helping the boy reach the owl.

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Maille house of the Maille Mustard.

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Working in Paris

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I got back last night from my trip to Paris for work. Everything went well and it was pretty much smooth sailing. The best part; it didn’t feel like work. There is something about Paris in the winter time. The dreary colors and feel just work and you wouldn’t want it to be sunny. You can walk around and enjoy the city without the hustle and bustle of tourist, to a certain extent, and just take in Paris.

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Last time I was in Europe during the holidays was when I was in sixth grade so I didn’t remember how much Europe got into decorating. It was beautiful. I also got to enjoy the Christmas market on the Champs-Élysées. That was pretty packed since we went on a Saturday afternoon but it was full of treats and presents and of course vin chaud (hot wine). It is basically a hot spiced wine and it is so tasty. It is seriously the perfect drink to sip on walking down the streets of Paris in the cool weather. I will be making this for an evening with friends around Christmas for sure.

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Vin Chaud

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Also I of course did lots of eating and I of course documented it all.

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More vin chaud.

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Even had Japanese in Paris at a fabulous noodle place around the corner from the Louvre.

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Below is a pain perdu.

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Paris pour Thanksgiving!

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Last night I started to get ready for my trip. Besides doing laundry I had left everything for the night before, which I think for most people is pretty standard. I stopped by target to pick up a few last minute things; hairspray, downy anti-wrinkle spray (great for traveling), and my favorite travel snack pretzel goldfish.

This is my first real work trip. This past summer when I traveled with work it was to see how our tours run but I was only supposed to observe. This time I will really be working, helping, and presenting. I packed my leather portfolio full of business cards that I will hopefully use for the first time as well this trip. This trip is about firsts.

With the theme of traveling today I wanted to suggest a blog to all of you, Two Wooden Spoons. The writer behind this blog is my sisters friend Dollie. Kara met Dollie in Australia studying abroad and I met her there as well when I went to visit. She is an amazing, funny, beautiful person and I think all of you will enjoy her posts! Make sure to read the story behind the spoons because it is an incredible story that should not be missed when visiting her site.

I hope everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving! Eat a lot. That is my only advice.

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