cozy gift guide


1. Albion Coat Pattern > 2. The Snow Child: A Novel > 3. Earl Grey Hot Chocolate > 4. Over the Knee Socks > 5. Space Cat Throw > 6. Sweatshirt Cape > 7. Bamboo Robe > 8. Owl Slippers > 9. Giraffe Pajama Pants

Winter vacation

Well it’s the one fabulous week of vacation Shawn and I have off together. We spent Christmas at my brother’s house with his family in Las Vegas. Though we were only there for a brief time, it was really relaxing and nice. I’m feeling very fortunate this Christmas. We made cookies, danced around like idiots playing Just Dance 2 and visited the Magical Forest.

One of the highlights was going hiking in Red Rock Canyon. Since it has been raining heavily there, there was a beautiful waterfall.

This is Wrigley, my brother’s dog. She’s so sweet and absolutely adorable. They adopted her in New York about 9 years ago.

My nephew, Dylan, particularly enjoyed running under the waterfall and jumping over streams.

Alas, I wish our vacation was pure vacation. Instead, I’ll be working on a ton of wedding projects. I can’t believe how soon till we get married. I can’t wait.

So, I now bring you my monster vacation list of things to finish by the end of the year.

(See I was just bribing you with Shawn’s lovely photos. You can see some more of our holiday photos that Shawn took if you like.)

Alix’s (mostly wedding) to do list

  1. Finish and mail out our invitations – This project is ending up taking quite a bit more time than I anticipated.
  2. Work on our guest favors – I’m hand making each one, but can’t quite share what they are yet.
  3. Figure out a hotel for our guests – Apparently our wedding weekend is a busy one and everywhere seems to be booked.
  4. Finalize our catering – Yep, our wedding is less than 2 months away and we don’t have this settled yet. Yikes!
  5. Plan our honeymoon – We have picked a place and booked flights, but need to figure out the details like hotels…
  6. Finally take our engagement photos
  7. Order our wedding bands
  8. Find someone to officiate our wedding
  9. Do some blog housekeeping – just a few nips and tucks here and there for the new year

So there we have it. Can’t wait to start crossing things off. I’m really hoping to have the invites done tomorrow but it’s looking a bit unlikely. Then we’ll be taking our photos on Thursday, which will be much more fun than anything else. We’ve also gotten a lot done…so I’ll share some of that, so everything isn’t so daunting.

Really awesome wedding stuff we’ve accomplished recently

  1. I got my shoes delivered yesterday. I love them. All thanks to you lovely readers, Jo in particular, who showed them to me.
  2. Shawn ordered his outfit. It’s really cool and his groomsmen are going to look great too.
  3. We’ve booked a photographer. This was a really hard choice and things ended up working out in an amazing way.
  4. I should have my dress by next week!
  5. We figured out a really cool plan for our rehearsal dinner which will be fun, low key and really let us spend time with our guests.

After making these lists, I’m feeling pretty good. I know there are a lot of other things I haven’t listed to be done (like a cake…), but I’m not going to worry about those right now. I should really get back to work as I have a lot of cutting and gluing to do with those lovely invites.

Espresso-Bean Shortbread

Dear readers, in the next few weeks, Cute and Delicious will be filled with cookies. You don’t mind, right? I was searching for inspiration for some holiday cookies and kept coming back to a bunch of Martha Stewart recipes. I felt it was most necessary that these be veganized, so I’ll be doing just that, and sharing my experience and recipes with all of you.

Espresso Bean Shortbread

I started with a very simple and appealing recipe for Espresso-Bean Shortbreads. This appeared to be not only one of the most enticing flavors, but also the easiest to make a vegan version. The only non-vegan ingredient is butter, which I personally don’t even think about for a second, as Earth Balance is such a superb replacement. It’s really a no-brainer. With cookies, it starts getting tricky with replacing eggs.

Espresso Bean Shortbread

Now there are a few things you need to know about Martha Stewart cookies.

  1. They use a lot of butter. This recipe uses 1 1/2 cups. Mostly they average about one cup. Consider yourself warned. Like I said, Earth Balance works great as a substitute.
  2. They involve a bit of advanced preparation. There is nearly always a fair amount of chilling time, so make sure you read through each recipe in advance. Don’t think you’ll just be popping these out of the oven in 1/2 an hour.

Espresso Bean Shortbread

The little espresso guys are easy to make and easier to eat. They’re dense, slightly crunchy and not too sweet. Moreover, they definitely pack a caffeine kick. Not cookies you want to eat right before bed time, trust me. I didn’t have a single complaint with the recipe, except that it took quite awhile with multiple chilling and freezing periods. I would recommend making them sort of flat, and not to make sure they are cooked all the way through.

So here are the humble but delicious beginnings of my cookie marathon. I personally think cookies make a great gift, and the ones here are sure to impress, but also travel well. Even though I’ve just begun, I can already see how easy it will be to get lost in a black hole of holiday cookies…but off we go anyway.

Espresso-Bean Shortbread

from Martha Stewart, originally found here

  • 1 1/2 cup Earth Balance
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 2 Tbsp warm water
  • 2 Tbsp finely ground espresso beans
  • 3 cups plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Cream together Earth Balance and sugar in a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat until slightly fluffy.

Combine the espresso powder and warm water in a small bowl and stir until combined. Beat the espresso mixture and beans into the EB and sugar.

Whisk together flour and salt and gradually add to butter mixture, beating until combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon or cookie scoop, and your hands, create small ovals bean shaped cookies. Place each cookie on the baking sheet 1 – 2 inches apart. To create the split in the coffee bean press a chopstick over the top of each cookie. Place each tray in the freezer to firm for 10 – 20 minutes

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes rotating sheets half way through. The bottoms should be browned, with the tops, just barely browning when you remove them.  Let cool completely on a wire rack before eating.

Holiday decorations

While it seems most people got the jump on their holiday decorations right after Thanksgiving, I’m a little bit behind. For one, the minimal decorations I do have are in our dreaded storage. Hopefully I’ll be able to dig them out this weekend.

To get things started I made these paper garlands to hang in our dining room / kitchen area (in a small apartment it’s all the same thing really).

holiday garlands

I wanted to create a bunch of white garlands to give a snowy feeling. I used lined notebook paper, because I like it and thought maybe it would give it a tiny hint of blue, that snow has. I then just strung them up on a strand of mono-filament.

I think it goes really well with the black and white theme of our dining area. It feels festive and wintery. Even a little holiday elf came to check out the California snow. Have I mentioned that our apartment is teaming with winter creatures, like that little guy? I’m not sure where they came from but they’ve been multiplying. Luckily they’re cute so I don’t mind that they seem to be taking over.

holiday garlands

I must confess there were a few more strands of garland just last night but the cats already had their way with them. They like to sit on top of our china cabinet and it was the perfect height for them to swat at the nearby garlands. I suppose the the Fargo
poster will just have to be part of the design…it is snowy, right?