The Princess and the Prague

3 Oct

Sorry it’s been so long since my last travel blog recap, but with my first set of college midterms school has been pretty hectic! Well, back to reliving my summer vacation….Here’s the fourth stop from our itinerary, Prague!

No, sadly I didn’t actually eat these heavenly looking meringues, but the crisp white and soft peaks of the cookie were just so beautiful. I hope to whip up a similarly delicious batch soon!

I love how these colorful, storybook-esque buildings fill the city. Their eclecticism and child-like innocence seems so perfectly suited to the city. The rows of vivid colors seem like a European equivalent of San Francisco’s bright Victorian homes.

I love this Art Nouveau statue by Alfons Mucha outside of the Municipal House. The way that the father and son stare down at the people down below really resonated with me. The glass structure that the father holds really elevates this piece from becoming another metal statue.

When I first saw the Hotel Evropa, I assumed that it was just a random hotel in Prague’s more commercial shopping district, but the mustard-yellow paint and art nouveau-style facade make it seem quite noteworthy indeed. Anything yellow automatically catches my eye. But, as it turns out, the hotel is rather famous for its beauty and its interior was actually featured in Mission Impossible and Titanic.

I love the bold colors and mod design of this piece of street art. Its modern vibrancy provided such a stark contrast to a city that otherwise seems stuck in dreams of the past. It is clearly an expression of the artistic population that fills Prague.

Instead of navigating the windy roads up to Prague castle, we decided to take a short cut through the lovely gardens behind the palace. Their Italian-style architecture bears no resemblance to the palace itself, but the gardens provided us with a beautiful, scenic view both of the hilly garden and of the entire city.

From afar, Prague Castle lacks the breathtaking beauty of so many other European castles, but it looks quite a bit like Hogwarts. It rained just moments after I took this photo, so the dark, foreboding sky certainly didn’t exactly make the castle look inviting.

Check out the amazing detailing on this window from Prague castle! The flowery sections and miniature stained glass really show of the Gothic beauty in all its glory. 

 

The area under the bridge (not in the Red Hot Chili Peppers way) is one of Prague’s hidden gems with various smaller artisans and more unique puppets. It provides a nice contrast to the various mass-produced puppeteers and tourist shops the cover much of Lesser Town. 

 

These were my favorite puppets that we saw. The disproportionate bodies and exaggerated facial features reminded me of unconventionally pretty porcelain dolls. They just seem so sweet and innocent, as if all they wanted was to be loved. 

In the same area under the bridge, we spotted these German beer girls taking a leisurely afternoon break. I loved the contrast between their regular, modern behavior and the old-school, touristy costumes. As the German costumes show, Prague appeared to lack a clear image of itself. Without a clearly defined national language, image, or cuisine,Prague seemed to be almost a hodgepodge of its European neighbors.

Frank Ghery’s famous Dancing House. While not as vibrant as some of Ghery’s more colorful buildings, the muted palate serves modernize Ghery’s curvaceous ode to Prague’s fairytale-esque architecture.

This is my favorite photo of Prague! The setting sun serves to perfectly illuminate the colorful buildings of Lesser Town, with the Prague Castle looming majestically in the background. 

September Likes

27 Sep

10. Check out this wonderful list of 7 trips every woman should take in her lifetime over at The Frisky. As if anyone needed another reason to travel! While a trip may not be in your immediate plan, it’s still a good idea to keep this article in the back of your mind for the next time you’re on the hedge about leaving town.

9. I love this super-sweet heart braid featured on Cup of Jo. It is pretty enough to make any little girl jump with joy, and funky enough to dress up a basic sweater-and-jeans ensemble. No matter who wears this awesome hairstyle, it’s bound to get smiles all around.

8. Check out this incredible DIY pallet bed from Prudent Baby. I can’t believe some of the resourceful recycled DIYs that people come up with! It’s beautiful, it’s eco-friendly, and it costs practically nothing to make! Make it your own with whatever colors and prints inspire you. Besides, nothing will blow your friends’ minds like hearing that you made your own bed.

7. Check out these adorable collard-wrapped mini burritos over at The Daily Meal. They are packed with quinoa, beans, cheese, and veggies. The vibrant color and wonderful size make these a healthy and exciting appetizer for a party or special dish for a Meatless Monday family dinner. Get creative with the fillings and use whatever you like best. I guarantee it will end up costing far less than any commercial fast food burritos and it will be far more nutritious too!

6. For anyone looking to ward off a few pounds prior to donning revealing Halloween costumes or simply looking to avoid the dreaded Freshman 15, check out Slimkicker. The online database and iPhone ap turn health and fitness into a game. Upon accumulating enough points from completing your self-chosen challenges and chronicling your meals and exercise regime, you earn points to advance to the next level, at which time you treat yourself to whatever reward you chose. I love the idea of turning health into a game where you choose how hard you want to push yourself and you set your own goals.

5. All of the nail designs over at nail-fun.tumblr.com are pretty amazing, but these Cath-Kitson inspired floral nails may be my very favorite. The bright blue base and delicate rosettes are enough to make anyone smile when they look down at these nails. I doubt I could ever master the complicated designs on this site, but they certainly provide some great inspiration for the next trip to the nail salon.

4. I can’t get over how adorable this travel-inspired dessert buffet is over at Amy Atlas Events. The sweet map cut outs, vintage suitcases, fluffy meringue clouds, and pretty little hot air balloons make this such a creative update on the typical dessert bar. This seems like the perfect addition to an UP themed wedding to me!

3. I am so excited by this super-simple yoga mat cleaner DIY from Free People’s BLDG 25 Blog. It simply fills a spray bottle with 3 parts water with 1 part Witch Hazel and a few drops of essential oils with antibacterial properties such as tea tree, lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus. I can’t wait to make it this weekend because my yoga mat doesn’t quite smell like roses…

2. This Ostrich Pillow on Kickstarter allows users to take a comfy power nap anywhere. I love that idea of the creators to design a product that “allow[s] you to create a little private space within a public one, to relax and unwind.” It allows you to bury your head and hands into the soft cushiony folds in order to catch some zzz’s on the go. The architecture firm who designed the product has met its goal with still 20 days to go.

1. This Decorated Cake Roll from Sugar For the Brain is absolutely awe-inspiring. Making any type of cake roll is pretty intimidating, but this beautifully printed cake seems terrifying to make. If you have the guts to try it, I can think of no better way to impress someone on their birthday. Sorry mom, I am not brave enough to make this for you next week…at least not yet. PS check out her Halloween Cake Roll on Best Friends for Frosting too!

Warm and Cuddly Snickerdoodle Cookies

25 Sep

As fall finally starts to roll around, I want something warm and comforting to snuggle up with. This felt like the perfect opportunity to add fuel to the flame of my crazy cookie obsession.

They are perfect for eating warm with a nice glass of milk or a steamy cappuccino. Make these cookies and share them with someone you love. Turn the season premiere of your favorite tv show into a celebratory cookie palooza.

Snickerdoodles fall right behind chocolate chip cookies on the ultimate comfort food scale. These cookies are soft, chewy, and down right addictive. Because there are no overpowering ingredients, the focus is more on the light and fluffy texture.

These cookies are for Goose because not only is he sugar and spice and everything nice (just like the cookies themselves), he also ate them already and won’t complain about me posting a recipe from a few weeks back. Especially if I promise to make some more for him very very soon. Like this weekend soon.

In case you still weren’t already convinced, these snickerdoodles really are that good that they will disappear and force you to remake them again and again. And since they take less than a half hour to whip up, I’m sure you won’t mind filling your house with the scent of warm, cinnamony cookies again.

 

Healthier Snickerdoodle Cookies 

Adapted from ElleFirebrand’s recipe on Food.com

Yield: 24 cookies

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus two tablespoons, divided
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus 1/2 teaspoon, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking power, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a mixmaster on medium-high speed, cream together brown sugar, 1/2 cup of white sugar, and butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla and egg white.
  4. Turn the mixmaster down to slow, then gradually add in the dry ingredients.
  5. Once combined, shape the dough into 24 balls and place them on baking trays in the freezer for about a minute to allow them to firm up. Meanwhile combine the remaining 1/8 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
  6. Remove the cookie dough from the freezer and roll each ball in sugar mixture, then place them two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use the palm of your hand to lightly flatten the cookie dough balls.
  7. Bake the cookies for about 6 minutes. Allow them to cool on the baking pan for 1 minute before transferring them to cooling racks to finish cooling.

 

Story Time To Start Off The Weekend!

21 Sep

Today I’m taking a break from my weekly travel blog re-caps for something a little different. Here’s a little story I wrote to get you started on some weekend fun. I hope you enjoy it!

The Lone Dwarf

Growing up, my best friend was a giant, or at least that’s how he appeared to me. He would always complain that he felt undervalued as an individual because his ma always compared him to his brother. I could never really sympathize because as a septuplet, having only one identical brother sounded pretty good to me.

Wearing matching baby clothes and sleeping in the same room as kids almost drove me insane. As grown ups it’s even worse. We share a tiny house and all seven of us co-own the family mining company. There’s nothing I hate more than when one of the workers mixes me up with one of my brother. Especially when they call me Grumpy. I hate that guy, he’s such a jerk.

Well anyway, back to the point. My brothers had always made me miserable, but I used to always brush it off by sleeping in order to escape from their constant bickering. I would dream of taking my share of the family fortune and running away with some beautiful forest maiden. When Snow White appeared out of the blue last month, everything changed.

She was the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on. She had thoughtful brown eyes the color of moist earth, tiny feet that could almost fit in the palm of my hand, and rosy cheeks that were always flushed with laughter. All my brothers could see in her though were her superficial traits like luscious lips or unblemished skin. They were such pigs, totally incapable of recognizing a fair maiden in need when they saw one. They even had a bet going about who could kiss her first, just for the fun of it.

I on the other hand, was head over heels in love with her. I even stopped napping because of her. This real flesh and blood lady dwarfed the maidens of my dreams. After a few days of simply enjoying the peace and order that she infused into our otherwise unruly house, she truly won my heart. If she could make me be happy even in that loathed house, I couldn’t even imagine how amazing my life could be living with her alone.

I began to dedicate any time that I wasn’t with her to chopping down trees for lumber and eventually constructing a cozy little love cottage on the edge of the woods furthest from her wretched stepmother. All I wanted was to make her as joyous and carefree as she had made me. I stayed up late into the nights and woke up at the crack of dawn in my attempt to finish the house before any of my crass brothers had a chance to lay their grimy hands on her.

Last week, after countless splinters, strained muscles, and sleepless nights I finally finished the house. It has a pond for her beloved song birds, bright blue and yellow interior walls to match her favorite dress, and a spacious kitchen for her to cook her brilliant dishes in. I designed every aspect of the house in an attempt to please her, from the heart-shaped stone path to the handmade extra long bed.

I was heading back to the house from a long day of putting the final touches on our love cottage with the hopes of professing my love to Snow White when my idiotic brother dopey came wandering up the road singing, “Snow White dead. Snow white dead. She ate an apple, now she’s dead.” I figured that he had just found his drug stash that we had hidden from him, so I ignored it for the most part.

As I got closer to the house, I noticed that it was unusually quiet, and I started to worry. When I finally climbed the steps to the front door, I could see my brothers solemnly sitting on the extra long couch, whipping tears off their cheeks, my true panic set in. There lay my beautiful Snow White on the floor, utterly motionless.

I immediately started searching Doc’s medical books, unwilling to believe that she could exit my life as quickly as she had entered it. To say that the results for “unmoving, unbreathing woman” were grim would be a gross understatement. Eight of the nine places that pertained to her condition proclaimed that the girl must be dead, but just as I was about to give up, I found one that said true love’s kiss could restore life to a poisoned maiden as long as the kiss occurred within 24 hours of the poisoning.

All afternoon I tried to work up the courage to kiss her and reveal my love for her before it was too late. After changing into my finest suit, coming my hair, and spraying on my special occasion cologne, I ventured to the living room to kiss my girl. That’s when my heart broke. Crouched over my fair maiden, sloppily kissing her delicate lips, was my childhood friend, the giant. Despite my childhood perception of my monstrously large friend, I stared at him for a few moments, recognizing that he wasn’t much bigger than Show White. In the few moments, while I stood there dumbfounded, he woke her up, picked her to his horse, and rode away with her.

Once I ceased to be able to even discern her general shape on the horizon, I turned to my brothers and asked them what the hell that was about. They said that Doc had told them that a kiss could save Snow White, but they couldn’t agree on who should kiss her, and therefore win the bet. So instead of calling me over, the one brother who hadn’t put in money on their filthy bet, they decided to call over Phillip over to “plop a wet one on the chick.”

So here I am now, writing this suicide note. Thank you, you wretched best friend for kidnapping the love of my life. Thank you brothers for ruining my one chance at happiness. Thank you mom and dad for making me live with these awful slobs. I’ve had enough of all the misery! Now I am taking action for myself and finally letting myself sleep forever to overcome this wretched heartache.

-Sleepy

Fall Cleansing Salad

18 Sep

This past weekend, the weather was in the 90s! It may be mid-September, but apparently Southern California hasn’t quite gotten the memo. Well that’s just too bad because I’m ready for cozy sweaters, cuddling up to loved ones to stay warm on long walks, and savoring my first pumpkin spice latte of the season.

While changing the weather is beyond my control, I still managed to evoke some feelings of fall with this delicious salad. It’s the perfect transition food because it has both the lightness of summer salads and the comfort of winter squash.

The colors of this salad really make it a party in your mouth with hot pink pomegranate arils, orange cubes of butternut squash, bright green kale, and taupe colored pumpkin seeds.

This salad was so good that I ate the leftovers for lunch and then again for dinner the very next day!

Fall Cleansing Salad

Adapted From Free People BLDG Blog

Ingredients:

  • 1 Butternut squash
  • 1 Pomegranate, seeded
  • ½ Cup of sunflower seeds
  • 2 Bunches of dinosaur kale
  • ½ Lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 Teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil (1 tablespoon for squash and 2 tablespoons for dressing)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Peel and cube the butternut squash, then toss it in a bowl with oil, and spread it out on the baking sheet. Roast the butternut squash for about 25 minutes, or until tender.
  2. While the squash is cooking, seed the pomegranate, and chop the kale. Place the kale into a large bowl, squeeze the lemon over it, and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, then mix it all up. This helps the kale to start softening a bit.
  3. Allow the squash to cool for about ten minutes after it comes out of the oven, and then mix it with the pumpkin seeds, pomegranate arils, and kale.
  4. In a small bowl beat together the mustard, salt, pepper, vinegar, and remaining oil. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and serve! 

I Don’t Want To Be An American Idiot…So I’m Soaking Up All The Culture I Can In Vienna!

14 Sep

Vienna was such an unexpected surprise! Aside from Paris, this may be my new favorite European city. In fact, Vienna is almost like a smaller, German-speaking version of Paris. The culture is so rich in art, literature, opera, and history. From the baroque architecture of the zoo to the classical musicians performing in the parks, it is evident that the people take great pride in sharing their search for beauty with any willing observers.

On our first day there, we had to of course snap a few photos outside of the beautiful Opera house, even if our two days in Vienna didn’t quite give us an opportunity to see one of their incredible performances.

Afterwards we headed over to the Naschmarkt Market for our first taste of Vienna. We skipped the delicious ethnic food restaurants in favor of trying some of the dried fruits and oil-marinated, cheese-filled vegetables at the numerous delicatessens.

The market had such an eclectic mix of people there to pick up their weekly groceries, meet friends for a meal, or simply wander around the market looking for an adventure. I think that this graffiti on one of the closed kiosks sums up the quirky, artsy, youthful vibe of the market itself.

Amazingly, the spice collection at the Naschmarkt Market was even more diverse than the one at the famous Turkish Spice Bazar! Seeing all the exotic spices, fresh produce, and other fun ingredients made me want a kitchen to cook with them, or at least more room in my suitcase to bring the yummy goodies back to my own kitchen.

I absolutely adore this sign outside of one of the vendors at the Naschmarkt Market. Too cute!

These little Viennese Hummel figurines are the sweetest playthings ever! American children with their barbies and transformer toys are missing out on these adorable porcelain figures.

Watching a wave of nostalgia wipe over my mom’s face as soon as the clock chimed and the bird popped out of these cuckoo clocks was one of the highlights of the trip for me by far. It’s amazing how simple objects can bring people instantly back to a specific moment in time. There’s nothing quite like watching your mom become a little girl all over again!

When I first saw the bold mosaic work of this building, my initial thought was that it had to be a Gaudi building, but to my surprise St. Stephen’s Church dates back to the 12th century. While the tiled roof was a post-WWII upgrade after a fire, it still bears no connection to Gaudi.

I love the beautiful details of ancient European churches, and the ornate windows on this Gothic church were no exception.

As we were wandering back to our hotel after an exciting first day in the city, we stumbled upon these talented classical musicians setting up shop to share their art with anyone willing to take the time to listen. The taste and refinement of their music is such a far cry from the goofy street performers back in LA!

This spectacular wedding dress cake outside of Demel made my draw absolutely drop! It looks so real that it is near impossible to imagine anyone ever eating such a work of culinary mastery. It would break my heart to ever cut into a cake as spectacular as this! 

When I saw the perfect little frosting shoes, I knew that we would have to come back the next day to try something from the sweet geniuses at Demel. unfortunately the sweets did not live up to the extraordinary expectations that the dress/cake had ingrained in our imaginations. The Imperial Torte at Cafe Imperial far surpasses the desserts here (or anywhere in Vienna for the matter).

Other than the Imperial Torte, this would have to be my favorite thing that I ate in Vienna. It was perfectly charred pieces of octopus accompanied by tangerine segments and jicama wasabi rolls. Yum! It was the perfect salty-sweet-sour-spicy combination.

Just a short metro ride away from the city was the beautiful  Schönborn gardens. The curvaceous intricacies of the greenhouse and dainty landscape designs made me giddy as soon as we stepped into the park. 

Here’s a close up of the gorgeous architecture!

Just past the green house is the incredible  Schönborn Zoo. They had such incredible animals including Lesser Pandas (such a mean name) and nearly a dozen species of monkeys. Check out the beautiful Victorian architecture of the monkey habitat. It is the most stylish zoo I’ve ever seen!

I love this sweet image of two elephants fighting/flirting. I’ve never seen two elephants interact so intensely, so this was a real treat for me to observe. Don’t they look so in love ?

Even in Austria, german pretzels were all the rage. They sold these massive doughy treats throughout Vienna, so of course I had to snap a picture of this one that’s the size of my head for my pretzel-loving boyfriend!

 Here is the stately Schönborn Palace around which the green house, zoo, running paths, train, and play labyrinths revolve. The cheery yellow and vibrant colors make the place feel so joyous and carefree!

After climbing up the hill for about 10 minutes, we received this incredible view of the entire  Schönborn Palace grounds. So lovely! I simply could sit on this bench and stare out of the beautiful city all day.

Here’s a better look at the incredible view we had of the Vienna skyline. While we didn’t have a full day to travel out to visit the place where The Sound Of Music was filmed, this view seems pretty spectacular to me!

Vienna seems like such the perfect intellectual city. People simply sit around reading parks and cafes. It seems like the most whimsical, carefree way to live. Books beat TV and facebooking any day!

All good things must come to an end, so my Dad and I took a lovely even stroll through Vienna, soaking up all we could of the beautiful city. I love the way that the setting sun reflected off this gorgeous glass Palmenhaus restaurant.

Have you been to Vienna before? Did the city steal your heart as easily as it stole mine?

End of Summer Strawberry Peach Crisp

7 Sep

There is nothing that I love more than strolling through my local farmer’s market on warm summer mornings with my family and sampling the delectable varieties of peaches, plums, plots, and nectarines that the farmers display with such pride. All year I wait for the mouth-watering stone fruits to arrive, and when they finally do I take it upon myself to see how many of the juicy beauties I can eat before they disappear once more.

Now that Labor day has come and gone, summer is officially starting to come to an end. This recipe is the perfect way to savor the delicious summer berries and stone fruits before it’s too late.

Because the fruits are at their sweetest and most succulent, they do most of the work for you. Simply chop up the fruits and toss together some sugar, flour, butter, and spice and bake!

As you can probably tell by the amount of fruit this recipe calls for, it feeds a crowd. Feel free to cut the entire recipe in half for a reasonable 9 inch by 9 inch crisp, or make the whole thing and freeze the leftovers so that you can lavish in the sweetness of summer even a few months down the road.

End of Summer Strawberry Peach Crisp

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Serves: Many (about 12-18 depending on how hungry your guests are)

Ingredients:

  • Fruit filling
    • 4 white peaches
    • 8 yellow peaches
    • 3 pounds of strawberries (about 3 pints)
    •  3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    •  1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
    •  1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Topping
    • 1  cup brown sugar
    •  1/2 cup call purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
    •  1 1/3 cup rolled oats
    •  1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) softened butter (or substitute coconut butter if you prefer)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, then butter a 9″ x 13″ glass or cermanic baking dish.
  2. Whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt.
  3. Toss the flour mixture with the peaches, strawberries, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond extract. Then spoon the filling into the prepared pan.
  4. Use a fork to combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, and spices, then mixing in the soft butter until the mixture is crumbly.
  5. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit mixture, shaking the pan to distribute it evenly.
  6. Bake the crisp for about 50 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove from the oven, and cool briefly before serving.

***the topping makes more than needed for a 9 by 13 inch dish, so make only half a batch, or use the extra crumble on top of  oatmeal, ice cream, yogurt, muffins, or other fruit