Tag Archives: holidays

Culinary Adventures: Candy Cane Cookies

Old-fashioned candy cane cookies for Christmas: a classic recipe that is always tasty and fun to make.


These candy cane cookies are a classic recipe that turn out super cute and are fun to make. A word of warning though–you really have to be into making cookies, because they are a little more labor intensive. Easy to make, but they take some time. Don’t plan on making them if you are in a rush.

I used the Betty Crocker candy cane cookies recipe, but they are all pretty much the same. It is a basic sugar cookie dough with some added mint extract.

Before you get started, know that you have to make the dough and then refrigerate it for four hours or overnight before you can form and bake them.

Betty Crocker Candy Cane Cookies recipe:


 1 cup sugar

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 egg
3 1/2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food color
2 tablespoons finely crushed peppermint candies
2 tablespoons sugar


  • Stir together 1 cup sugar, the butter, milk, vanilla, peppermint extract and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Divide dough in half. Stir food color into 1 half. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  • Heat oven to 375ºF.
  • Stir together peppermint candy and 2 tablespoon sugar; set aside.
  • For each candy cane, shape 1 rounded teaspoon dough from each half into 4-inch rope by rolling back and forth on floured surface. Place 1 red and white rope side by side; press together lightly and twist. Place on ungreased cookie sheet; curve top of cookie down to form handle of cane.
  • Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until set and very light brown. Immediately sprinkle candy mixture over cookies. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

The recipe says “stir food coloring into one half,” but stir really isn’t the right word. I made a dent in the middle of the half of the dough I was making pink, dropped the food color drops in there, and then closed it up and kneaded the ball of dough until the color was evenly distributed.

When rolling the dough, I pinched and rolled a ball of each color to ensure similar size, then rolled it between my palms to start elongating it and then transferred it to wax paper to roll longer. You can roll adding pressure to parts of the dough to get it evenly sized down the length of the “rope.” Next, twist them together and form a cane and transfer to your cookie sheet.

Candy-cane-cookies 047
Candy cane cookies

The candy crushed candy cane and sugar didn’t stick to the candy cane cookies when they came out of the oven, so I scratched that step. I think they look great without the candy cane stuff on top, a bit more classic. The mint extract in the dough is a nice flavor without being overpowering.

I always cool on wax paper instead of a wire rack. It works out fine.

Candy cane cookies
Candy cane cookies
Candy cane cookies
Candy cane cookies

I liked the candy cane cookies recipe and would definitely make it again. I hope our friends and family enjoy them as well. Don’t forget to leave some for Santa…

Candy cane cookies
Candy cane cookies


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Tips for Throwing a Big Party in a Small House

Tips for throwing a big party in a small house: Don’t let the size of your house stop the fun. Ways to maximize your space and keep everyone mingling.


For the  eight years before buying our first house, Paddy and I rented an 840 square foot house in north Seattle, and we threw a lot of parties there. Summertime was easiest, because we had a pretty decent sized back yard (for city standards, anyways).

Our biggest party of the year, however was our annual white elephant Christmas party. Being a wintertime party, we had to get everyone indoors and able to move about and have a good time. The last year we lived there, we crammed 46 people in that house, and the party was the best one yet. Throwing a big party in a small house is possible. Here’s our tips for maximizing your party space:

1. People always congregate in the kitchen

Even when we lived in our small duplex apartment with the tiniest kitchen in the world, the couple times we threw a party people would still cram into the kitchen. It’s where the drinks are, and often the food. People go in for a drink and get caught in conversations. Therefore, expect your kitchen to be a main gathering area, even if that’s not what your intention is. Consider putting food or a bar in the living area to help people disperse a bit more if your house layout allows it. Always include paper plates for food so guests can take snacks with them to other parts of the house instead of hovering over the snack table.

throwing a big party in a small house
People will ALWAYS be in your kitchen.

2. Make sure there is plenty of seating in the living room or larger areas of the house

Folding chairs are great, you can store them in the garage the rest of the year, or rent them if you don’t have any. Put some around the perimeter of the living room, making plenty of places for people to sit and talk. Sure, it doesn’t look as nice, but people like to sit and converse almost as much as they love to cram in the kitchen (especially ladies in cute uncomfortable shoes).

throwing a big party in a small house
Have plenty of seating

3. Make an outdoor smoking area

You will most likely have at least a handful of smokers. We like to put up a 10×10 pop-up canopy outside the back door with Christmas lights or lanterns to provide a sheltered, ambient place for smokers to congregate.

4. Put a photo booth or activity in a spare room

Our last year we made a photo booth with an iphone (see my post about how to do this here) and put it in the guest room. It was a smash hit. Not only was it super fun and we got a lot of entertaining photos from it, but it dispersed people throughout the house a bit better. Don’t forget props!

iphone photo booth 032 iphone-photo-booth

5. Maximize fridge space with coolers

Put an extra cooler outside in the smoking area or next to your bar table with ice for beers. This will give more space for drinks and help with kitchen traffic.

6. Don’t forget logistics like extra TP, etc

Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper. This is something that is easy to forget when you have a small household, but is essential to having a large amount of guests at your house. Put extra rolls under the sink or in a basket somewhere where guests can find it if it runs out. Check the bathroom periodically during the party. Also, keep a trash can and a recycle bin in the kitchen or somewhere where they can be easily found.


Lastly, remember that not everyone you invite will show up. We usually get about a 30-50% turnout of who we invited. Paddy always had a mini panic every year at my Facebook invite guest list–“86 people?! What if they all show up??!!” Dude, they won’t all show up. That never happens. People appreciate that you invited them, even if they can’t make it. And you never know who will make it–we’ve had some long lost friends come out of the woodwork and get back in touch.

So don’t be afraid of throwing a big party in a small house. It was a tight squeeze at times in our old rental house, but people said they kind of liked it They said it was a little like a college kegger but for grown-ups.


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Culinary Adventures: Mexican Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie: a spicier and richer version of the classic fall favorite.


Paddy and I are both big fans of spicy chocolate, and I wanted to shake things up a bit for Thanksgiving this year. I found this recipe for Mexican Chocolate Pumpkin Pie in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, and decided to try it out. I changed it up a bit, using pre-made chocolate cookie pie crusts, dividing the recipe into two (the cookie pie crusts were pretty shallow) and tripling the chocolate ganache recipe. It turned out fantastic and our families loved it.

Better Homes and Gardens Mexican Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Recipe:

  • 1 recipe Baked Piecrust (I subbed out a pre-made chocolate cookie crust
  • 1 3.1 ounce disc Mexican chocolate or 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped plus 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon mild chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 15 ounce can pumpkin
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 1 recipe Chocolate Ganache*
  •  Grated chocolate (optional)
  •  Chili powder (optional)


  1. Prepare Baked Pastry Shell; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan heat the chocolate, cinnamon and butter over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, just until melted; set aside to cool. In a large bowl combine the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, salt, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, and cayenne. Stir in the pumpkin and eggs until combined. Gradually stir in half-and-half until combined.
  2. Stir 1 1/2 cups of the pumpkin mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture. Pour chocolate mixture into baked pastry shell. Gently pour remaining pumpkin mixture over the chocolate layer. If necessary, cover edges of pie with foil to prevent overbrowning. Bake for 60 minutes or until edges are puffed and center appears set. Cool on a wire rack. Chill within 2 hours. Serve with Chocolate Ganache. Sprinkle with grated chocolate and chili powder, if desired.
CHOCOLATE GANACHE: (I tripled this recipe to make enough for two pie toppings)

Chop 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate and place in a small bowl. Heat 1/4 cup whipping cream to a simmer and pour over chopped chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Immediately spoon over center of cooled pie.

The Mexican chocolate I used I found at the little Mexican tienda across the street from our house. We live in a pretty culturally diverse neighborhood, so it was pretty easy to find. If you don’t have any Mexican grocery/variety stores in your area, you could try using regular chocolate and adding in cinnamon and cayenne, but it probably won’t turn out entirely the same.

Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie
Mexican chocolate

The chocolate comes in disks inside the package. The recipe called for one disk.

Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie
Mexican chocolate

The filling wasn’t so different from a regular pumpkin pie, aside from mixing part of the pumpkin filling with the Mexican chocolate for the bottom layer, and adding a few extra spices. It was pretty easy.

Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie
Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie –the chocolate/pumpkin layer on the bottom
Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie
Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie –pumpkin layer
Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie
Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie –pies ready to go in the oven

The pies came out the consistency of a regular pumpkin pie, and when they were cool I made the chocolate ganache and poured it over the tops. Once the ganache was cool, I grated part of a chili chocolate bar and sprinkled it on top. I used the local Seattle Theo Chocolate chili bar.

Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie
Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie
Mexican Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
Mexican Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Paddy says he expects Mexican chocolate pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving now. I will try to accommodate, but I do love trying a new recipe every year!



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Culinary Adventures: Champagne Cupcakes

Culinary Adventures: Champagne cupcakes. Cupcakes with subtle champagne flavor perfect for New Years, Christmas, bridal showers, or any celebratory event


The holidays always put me in a sparkly mood. So I decided to try making some cupcakes that were equally festive. These champagne cupcakes are super easy, and add a unique flair to a holiday gathering or any other celebration. Everybody likes champagne.

To make these all you need is a white cake mix, eggs and oil as called for on the box, and champagne.

Prepare cupcakes as directed on the box, but sub out champagne for the water. The champagne will cause the batter to fizz a bit, don’t worry–it’s just reacting to the baking soda in the mix.  Bake as directed. Voila!


For the frosting, I made it up as I went as I usually do with frosting, but here is approximately my ingredient ratios:

1 stick of butter (1/2 a cup), softened

3-4 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

champagne –start with about 1/2 a cup and add until frosting is the right consistency.


With an electric mixer, beat butter, half the sugar and 1/2 cup of champagne until mixed. Add vanilla and beat thoroughly. Add champagne and powdered sugar as needed until frosting is firm but spreadable. Pipe onto cupcakes using a large pastry decorating tip.

I added sugar pearls and silver sugar sprinkles to look like champagne bubbles. For a bridal shower or a girly event, you can use pink champagne and a little red food coloring to make them pale pink.

Champagne cupcakes
Champagne cupcakes
Champagne cupcakes
Champagne cupcakes

Happy New Year!


Crafty Adventures: How to Make a DIY iPhone Photo Booth

Crafty Adventures: How to make a DIY iPhone or iPad photo booth for your next party. It’s easy, cheap, and a lot of fun!

People LOVE photo booths. Especially if it is an event where they are dressed up nice or for a theme party of some sort, such as a wedding, Halloween, luau, holiday party, etc.

There are a lot of photo booth rental companies out there in Seattle and across the country that charge a ton of money for professional style photo booth rentals. These are great for weddings and large events with a big budget, but I was determined to figure out a cheap and easy way to get create a photo booth for my party myself. I ended up creating an iPhone photo booth for our annual white elephant Christmas party, and it was a smash hit. Technology is awesome.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. iPhone, iPad, or comparable smartphone or tablet with camera

2. Pocketbooth app (downloadable on the app store for $1.99)

how to make an iphone photo booth

This app is awesome. It gives you a classic photo booth strip of four photos, and you just have to click the green button to start it taking pictures. You can delete photos if you don’t like them, guests can email them to themselves, and the photos automatically save to your phone. You can also choose from black & white, sepia, color, and other filters.

3. A somewhat quiet, out of the way corner to set it up in (guest room, basement, somewhere away from the main party area)

Having it in a separate area will give your guests a little privacy to make them comfortable to be as silly as they want to be, and draw the party to other areas (instead of everyone cramming into the kitchen near the food and booze, which is what always ends up happening).

4. Tripod and tripod adapter attachment for your iPhone or tablet

We used our gorillapod, but a regular tripod will work just as well if not better. The adapter was bought on Amazon, and is adjustable to accommodate various phone sizes. I believe they make these for iPads and tablets as well.

how to make an iphone photo booth

5. A good lighting source facing directly at the people in the booth, (but not a blinding one).

I had a couple of square-shaped paper lanterns that I bought super cheap at Ikea for around $15.00 each. Lighting is imperative for good photos that aren’t grainy. The paper around the bulb diffused the light nicely, and the square shape helped them stand on their own.

how to make an iphone photo booth

6. A bench or two chairs, and a table for the tripod if needed

how to make an iphone photo booth

I had a little shelf that I used. I covered the top with Christmas wrapping paper, and put my props in the shelves below for people to easily access.

7. An extension cord to keep your phone or tablet plugged in the whole time so that the battery won’t die during the party

Your phone will get a lot of action, best be safe and make sure the battery doesn’t die and ruin all the fun.

8. A fun backdrop and props.

I used a piece of sparkly red fabric from Joann Fabrics (don’t forget to check their website for 50% discount coupons, they always have them) and some Christmas lights. Props get people into it–feather boas, reindeer antlers, funny hats, sunglasses, wigs, stuffed penguins, leis, coconut bras, rubber spiders, creepy dolls, anything that you think goes with your theme. Use your imagination!

how to make an iphone photo booth


There are a couple of things to consider when using an iPhone photo booth. First, make sure you can trust your friends, as people will have the ability to use and get into your phone. Our friends are awesome and our party wasn’t huge, so this wasn’t a concern for me. Another option is to create a guided access security option on your phone in the settings, which will lock your phone into one app and you can’t get out of it without your pass code. This is pretty easy to do, made for parents giving their phones to their kids to play games.

Also, if your phone is in the photo booth, you won’t know if someone is trying to call or text you. Or someone else might answer if they do…A way around this is to put your phone in airplane mode to hold all your calls and texts. Just make sure you have a wifi signal turned on so that guests can still email photos to themselves. You’re hosting a party, you don’t need to waste time with your phone anyway. You have guests to entertain.

Last– I didn’t think about it until after the party was over, but my phone is set to lock after an hour of no use. The iPhone photo booth was such a popular attraction at our party that this wasn’t an issue. Keep in mind though that you may need to adjust your iPhone settings to make sure it stays unlocked throughout the party.

Once you get it set up, test it out with various lighting options. If your party is going to mostly be after dark, don’t test it during the day unless the room has no windows. Make sure everything is all set up beforehand.

I tested mine with Finnigan. He was less than thrilled, but was a pretty good sport about it.

how to make an iphone photo booth
iphone photo booth

The lanterns worked really well for the lighting. The photo booth was a hit and everyone had a blast. I think I’ll have to do it every party from now on. Already thinking up different backdrops….

how to make an iphone photo booth
Finnigan, Paddy, and I
how to make an iphone photo booth
iphone photo booth
how to make an iphone photo booth
Photo booths are so exciting!

how to make an iphone photo boothhow to make an iphone photo boothhow to make an iphone photo boothhow to make an iphone photo boothhow to make an iphone photo boothhow to make an iphone photo boothhow to make an iphone photo boothhow to make an iphone photo booth

Our Lives in Ornaments

Our Lives in Ornaments: Continuing my Mother’s Christmas tradition of a new ornament each year to represent the past year of our lives.


Decorating our Christmas tree is one of our favorite parts of the Christmas season. I have my Mom to thank for a big part of that. Starting with my very first Christmas as a 6 month old baby, my Mom has given me a new ornament each Christmas to represent the  past year of my life.

Our lives in ornaments
Me and my Dad decorating the tree

When I turned 22, she didn’t give me an ornament and I was totally bummed. She asked me how long I expected her to keep getting me ornaments. I told her that I thought I would get ornaments from her forever and ever. She continued the tradition, which I’m pretty sure she still enjoys. (At least, I hope so).

When Paddy and I moved in together, she began getting ornaments for the two of us with our shared adventures in mind. Whenever we travel now, we also try to find a Christmas ornament from the country we’re visiting to add to our collection of dangling memories.

Decorating the tree each year is a trip down memory lane. We have a huge collection of ornaments now and the majority of them are meaningful. I won’t bore you with all of them, but here are a few of my favorites:


There’s the Washington State Ferry to represent growing up in Friday Harbor, WA

Friday Harbor ferry boat Christmas ornament
Friday Harbor ferry boat
Friday Harbor ferry
Friday Harbor


There is the school bus ornament from first grade when I rode the school bus for the first time all by myself. And the piano from when I took piano lessons in elementary school.

School bus ornament and piano ornament

Then there’s the bicycle ornament from 5th grade when riding my bike around the neighborhood with the neighborhood bike gang was all the rage. I even won a brand new 10 speed in a Sprouse Ritz coloring contest.

bicycle Christmas ornament

And, when the tween years set in and I was constantly tying up my parents’ phone line every night, Mom found me a phone ornament (complete with cute chipmunks)

Chipmunks and telephone Christmas ornament

1991-Getting my VERY OWN PHONE for my birthday
Me in 1991-Getting my VERY OWN PHONE for my birthday


When I was 15, I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer. My friend’s mother patiently gave me sewing lessons once a week after school. She was very talented. Alas, I was not. I can make curtains and hem pants. Below is the sewing machine ornament representing that year, next to the Christmas alien ornament we bought at the Little A’Le’Inn cafe in Rachel Nevada on our Nevada Road Trip in 2011,

our lives in ornaments

Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada
Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada
Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada
Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada, 2011


During my junior year of high school, I was an exchange student in Denmark, which is where my travel and adventure fever began. Mom gave me a little money to buy my own ornament so that I could get something to represent my exchange year. My Danish host family spent Christmas at their cabin in Norway, and we had Christmas Eve dinner with their friends in Lillehammer. I bought a Norwegian viking ship ornament. It was an amazing and unique Christmas that I will never forget.

Norwegian viking ship Christmas ornament

Norwegian Christmas dinner
Norwegian Christmas dinner
Christmas in Norway
Christmas in Norway, 1997
Cross country skiing in Norway
Learning to cross country ski in Norway– it’s harder than it looks!


When I was 20, I went to the University of Hawaii for a year in Honolulu on the National Student Exchange Program in college. Mom found a Hawaiian surfing Santa ornament for me.

Hawaiian surfing Santa Claus ornament

The University of Hawaii
Me at The University of Hawaii, 2002
Waimanalo Beach, Oahu
Waimanalo Beach, Oahu 2002


And here’s the college grad ornament she got me the year I finally graduated:

our lives in ornaments

our lives in ornaments
Paddy and I at my college graduation, 2004


In 2006 we went on vacation to Oahu, Hawaii and I showed Paddy around the island and neighborhood where I lived in college before we met. We picked out this Santa and Mrs. Claus in Hawaii ornament to represent us when we are old. Hopefully, we’ll be spending our golden years somewhere amazing and happy as well.

Santa and Mrs Claus in Hawaii ornaments

Snorkeling in Hanauama Bay, Oahu
Snorkeling in Hanauama Bay, Oahu 2006
Lanikai Beach, Oahu
Paddy on Lanikai Beach, Oahu 2006

Later in 2006 we got our cats as kittens right before Christmas. Mom got us gray and orange kitten ornaments.

kitten Christmas ornaments

kitten Christmas ornaments

It’s hard to believe they were ever so young.

kittens Gonzo and Finnigan
Gonzo and Finnigan
baby Finnigan kitten
Baby Finnigan


In 2008 we went and visited a friend in Chicago. Mom of course found the perfect ornament for us. Read about our Chicago trip here.

our lives in ornaments Chicago Christmas ornament

Chicago Cloud Gate sculpture

Chicago Cloud Gate sculpture
Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago
Navy Pier, Chicago
On Navy Pier, Chicago


In the summer of 2009, Paddy proposed to me while on a camping trip at Sol Duc Campground in the Olympic National Park. We both love camping and it was a perfect weekend. And yet again, Mom found a great ornament to commemorate our engagement year.

camping Christmas ornament

Sol Duc Falls Olympic National Park
Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park WA
Olympic National Park Lovers Lane Trail
Hiking Lover’s Lane trail at Sol Duc, Olympic National Park, WA
our lives in ornaments
Our Irish claddagh engagement rings from the Sol Duc campground gift shop.


At the end of the summer, we went to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico for a week. I found a Dia de los Muertos skull ornament to add to our collection.

sugar skull Christmas ornament from Mexico
Ornament from Mexico
At Chichen Itza, Mexico 2009
At Chichen Itza, Mexico 2009
Tulum beach, Mexico 2009
Tulum, 2009


In 2010, we got married at my parents’ house in Friday Harbor. It was honestly the best day of my life. Mom came through with our ornament again. (You can read about our honeymoon in French Polynesia here)

our lives in ornaments wedding Christmas ornament

San Juan Island wedding
Photo by Jennifer Tai Photo Artistry
Photo by Jennifer Tai Photo Artistry
Photo by Jennifer Tai Photo Artistry


In 2012, we went to Ireland, Paddy’s top bucket list destination. We found a claddagh ornament to bring home (which goes with our claddagh wedding rings).

Christmas ornament from Ireland
Ornament from Ireland
At the Rock of Cashel, Ireland 2012
At the Rock of Cashel, Ireland 2012
Paddy at the Guiness Storehouse, Dublin
Paddy at the Guiness Storehouse, Dublin
At the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland 2012
At the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland 2012


This last year, we went to Thailand. I found a key chain that I made into a Christmas ornament, which I bought at Cabbages and Condoms. More about that here.

our lives in ornaments Thailand Christmas ornament

Riding elephants in Thailand, 2014
Riding elephants in Thailand, 2014
At Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands 2014
At Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands 2014


I’m thankful to my Mom for a lot of things, one of them being that she began this tradition for me and continues it for both of us. Every Christmas is a time to reflect on our lives and all of our great memories of adventures past. Had we decided to have children, I would have done the same for them. Thanks Mom.

Seattle Christmas tree with ornaments
Our Christmas tree, full of memories.
Me and my Mom snow in Friday Harbor
Me and my Mom

Christmas Time in Seattle

Holiday fun for grown-ups: Our top recommendations for things to do during Christmas time in Seattle to put you in the holiday spirit


I love Christmas time, almost as much as I love Halloween and October. Christmas itself is nice, and great to spend with family. However, a lot of what I love about Christmas actually happens before Christmas. And Christmas time in Seattle has a lot going on.


Pacific Northwest Ballet’s The Nutcracker

pnb nutcracker1
Image from Seattle Times http://seattletimes.com/html/photogalleries/thearts2016858041/

To be clear, Paddy is NOT a fan of the ballet, but he was a good sport and let me drag him to this with me one year. Tickets can be expensive, but there are several seating options with varied prices. We got tickets for seats in the row right in front of the Golden Circle in the lower price area, and it was a great view for half the price of the Golden Circle tickets. It’s fun to dress up and go to the big ballet.

2014 is the last year for the Stowell and Sendak version of The Nutcracker, but it will keep going next year under a new and different production. I may have to go back and see it again next year with the new show. www.pnb.org

**Tip: The cheapest nosebleed back balcony seats aren’t worth it. You can’t see anything. Made that mistake once. Splurge on a little bit better view.


Driving around and checking out all the Christmas lights, and shopping downtown

While this may not be unique to Seattle, it’s still pretty fun. Downtown as well as the outlying Seattle neighborhoods dress up their sidewalk trees and store fronts. The Space Needle even has a Christmas tree formed out of lights at the top of the needle. Shopping (or window shopping) is fun at Pike Place Market and in the various shops and boutiques around downtown. While we’re not huge fans of malls, Pacific Place Mall downtown has indoor snowfall on December weekends in the atrium. It can be fun if you happen to be in the area. The Sheraton also puts on a Gingerbread Village every year that is free and open to come in and view.

If you want to keep your shopping local, the Ballard neighborhood has a lot of funky little boutique shops that are worth checking out. Check out the shops on Ballard Avenue and on NW Market St.

Christmas time in Seattle

As for neighborhood Christmas lights, the Overzealous  Clark Griswold Award for Christmas lights has to go to this house near us on 8th Ave NW. They do it every year, and I can only imagine what their electric bill is for the month.

Overzealous Christmas lights


Holiday Burlesque Shows

photo from http://www.landofthesweets.com/

One of the best places in Seattle for dinner theater is the Triple Door downtown. And one of their best shows is Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker. Starring the top burlesque performers in Seattle, the show is full of glitter, glamour, dancing, and pasties. As the popularity of the show has increased over the last few years, so have the prices. It is worth it though. If you want to see a dazzling, glittering Christmas show in a swanky venue with a fancy cocktail and a delicious meal, this is your show. Dinner is served before and during the show (I recommend getting there when the doors open if you want to eat dinner–usually about an hour prior to the showtime) from the attached Wild Ginger restaurant. Dinner is optional, and drinks are served throughout the show.

The show runs on various dates during the month of December, and just about always sells out. Get your tickets early. http://www.landofthesweets.com/

Photo from http://www.landofthesweets.com/
Photo from http://www.landofthesweets.com/

Another fun venue for burlesque shows is The Can-Can near Pike Place Market. The venue is small and intimate, and their shows tend to be a little more risque in the humor department. They are another one of my favorite places for a good show and a fancy cocktail. This year they are doing a Winter Wonderland cabaret show, which we will be attending later this month. I’m never sure exactly what to expect at a Can Can show, but I’ve never been disappointed.

photo from http://www.thecancan.com/
photo from http://www.thecancan.com/

If the Triple Door and the Can Can are a little too pricey or sold out, The Pink Door around the corner from the Can Can in Post Alley offers a dinner and burlesque cabaret show at 11:00 PM on Saturday nights. It’s first come first served in the lounge area only, with dinner starting at 9:00. Priority seating is given to dinner guests, so if you are just having drinks you may be put on a waiting list. The show is $20.00 (cash only) collected separately from the dinner checks.

It might not be holiday-themed, but the food and drinks are top notch and you might think that you are in a naughty speakeasy in Paris in during prohibition. The atmosphere is great for a cozy romantic date.

The Pink Door
The Pink Door


The Dina Martina Christmas Show


I’ve tried to come up with a way to describe the Dina Martina Christmas Show to people who have not seen it, and I am always at a loss for words. All I can say is that it is Seattle’s best Christmas show hands down. If there is one show you see during Christmas time in Seattle, make it Dina Martina at The Re-bar. Shows run from Thanksgiving weekend all through December.

I’ve been to Dina Martina’s Christmas Show several times, and every time the lights dim and she walks onto the stage and begins singing, I hear someone who is at the show for the first time gasp “Oh my god!” in shock (or maybe horror). Expect ridiculous renditions of classic Christmas carols and top 40 hits, sequined dresses that don’t zip up all the way in the back,  pantyhose as pants, and lots and lots of red lipstick. That’s all I’m going to say. Get your tickets early, Dina Martina sells out quick–especially for weekend shows. www.rebarseattle.com



Of course our all-time favorite part of Christmas time in Seattle is the annual white elephant Christmas party we throw each year, but that is not a public event. There are lots of other activities for families such as the WinterFest at the Seattle Center, but we prefer the sort that involve dressing up and cocktails. If you’re looking for Christmas time entertainment, Seattle has plenty to offer for the adults.

Happy Holidays!

Christmas time in Seattle

Culinary Adventures: Spiced Apple Rings

Making homemade spiced apple rings–an awesome relish tray addition to your family’s holiday dinner

My Grandma always added store-bought spiced apple rings to her relish tray for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners. My Mom never bought them, they were only something we ate on Christmas Eve at Grandma’s with her Christmas pot roast. Blood red, perfectly round, spicy rings that I never got to eat anywhere else.

When I told my Grandma that I was going to try and make spiced apple rings, she told me that she’d never considered making them from scratch, despite all the canning that she does. She was curious to see how they turned out. She said that she didn’t think anyone else liked them but her, and stopped buying them eventually. She was happy that somebody else enjoyed them at her holiday dinners.

Well Grandma–you’re getting homemade spiced apple rings for Christmas this year.

I used this recipe found at Food.com. It says it makes 8 pints, but I bought a pack of 12 wide mouth pint jars and it filled them all. Also–total time 1 hour my ass. More like three.

I knew going into it that mine were not going to be perfectly round, nor blood red. I’m sure a lot of artificial red #5 dye goes into those store bought spiced apple rings. I also didn’t have an apple corer, despite searching for one at the local Fred Meyer.

**If this is your first time canning, PLEASE read all the instructions in the Ball canning guide. There is a lot that can go wrong if you don’t know what you are doing.



  • 12 lbs firm tart apples, no more than 2 1/2-inch diameter
  • 12 cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups white vinegar, 5
  • 3 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 3/4 cup red hot cinnamon candies or 8 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)

**Whitney’s note: Also get a squeezy bottle of lemon juice, you’ll need it to keep the apples from browning.


  1. Wash apples. Peel and slice one apple at a time. Immediately cut crosswise into 1/2″ slices, remove core area with a melon baller and immerse in ascorbic acid solution to keep the apples from discoloring.

If you have an apple corer, this will probably go a lot smoother for you than it did for me. I cut the cores out of the apple slices by holding a knife in them and turning the slice around as I cut. If you can find an apple corer, buy it. It will be worth it.

I used Granny Smith apples, this is definitely a recipe you want to use tart apples for.

how to make spiced apple rings 466

how to make spiced apple rings

Place all the apple rings in bowls of water with lemon juice to keep them from browning. They will start to brown really fast so get them right into the lemon water immediately after cutting.

how to make spiced apple rings

2. In a 6 quart saucepan, combine sugar, water, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon candies, or cinnamon sticks and food coloring (if using).

The recipe told me to throw everything in the pot and boil. I threw in a couple cinnamon sticks along with the red hot candies for extra cinnamon flavor. I did add the optional tsp of red food coloring.

If I were to do this recipe again, I would put the cloves in a “teabag” made from cheesecloth. They were just floating loose and when I was pouring liquid into the jars it was hard to keep all the cloves out. I suppose they could add extra flavor during processing and while the spiced apple rings are jarred, but it was kind of annoying. People also aren’t so into picking hard woody things out of their apple rings at the dinner table.

3. Heat to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves then lower heat and simmer 3 minutes.

how to make spiced apple rings

4. Drain apples and add to hot syrup, and cook for 5 minutes.

how to make spiced apple rings
I wasn’t sure that cooking the apples for a whole five minutes prior to adding them to the jars was a good idea, because they kept cooking while I was canning. You don’t want mushy apple rings. Doing this recipe again, I would just steam them covered on low heat for 2 minutes, and then start the canning process.
how to make spiced apple rings

 5. Fill prepared jars with apple rings and hot flavored syrup, leaving a 1/2″ headspace.
how to make spiced apple rings
I found that the best tool for taking apple rings out of the pot and into the jars was a BBQ fork. I stacked the rings into the jars (doing my best to pick out the cloves as I went–again, cheesecloth recommended) and poured the syrup in on top. I pressed the rings down with a spoon to allow the syrup to fill all the spaces between the apples and remove the air bubbles. Do this until you have juice saturating the spiced apple rings, about 1/2 inch below the top of the jar and the air bubbles are removed.
how to make spiced apple rings
6. Check for air bubbles and add more liquid if needed to maintain the 1/2″ headspace.

7. Process pint or quart size jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Adjust time according to your altitude. NOTE: This can also be pressure canned. Pressure Canner – Hot pack pints or quarts and process for 8 minutes at the pressure specified according to your altitude and / or style of canner.

I live close to sea level, so I did 10 minutes processing time (starting the timer when the water started boiling) and 5 minutes cooling time (taking the lid off the canner and turning off the burner) as recommended in the Ball Canning guide for their recipes. They recommend 20 minutes water bath processing for higher altitudes. I’m not sure if my processing time was 100% correct, so I would recommend consulting Ball instead of trusting me.

how to make spiced apple rings

All of the jars sealed, but there were a couple that had such large rings in them that the syrup didn’t cover all of the apples. I put those in the fridge to eat soon, just in case something went wrong. I tasted the couple that didn’t fit into the jars, and they tasted great. I’m looking forward to having homemade spiced apple rings at Thanksgiving dinner this year.

how to make spiced apple rings