a cozy cabin christmas

Christmas 2013 Hi guys! How have your holidays been? We spent our Christmas in the mountains just outside of LA and it was perfect. We booked a great little cabin via Airbnb, rented a car, and loaded up on firewood and groceries for plenty of cooking, drinking, and snacking. The plan was simple: relax and indulge.

Other than driving ten minutes to Lake Arrowhead for a brief visit, we stayed cozied up inside with a roaring fire (Joe is a great Boy Scout) and ate whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Christmas Eve dinner was just right but the food highlight of the holiday was my batch of Colombian buñuelos. I made them for Christmas in London but last year we sadly had to go without the traditional fried cheese balls of goodness since the cheese we needed simply didn't exist in KL. However, it only made them taste that much better this time around, especially since I got to share them with my family! My sister, brother-in-law, and nieces joined us on Christmas Day, just in time for my girls to help me roll the maza into little balls. After tamales and buñuelos, my nieces and I did Christmas arts and crafts and roasted marshmallows with Tio Jojo using sharpened branches he collected. Needless to say, those girls were two very happy campers!

And so was everyone else. Joe had been happy since we arrived because he finally had an excuse to use the hatchet I bought him three Christmases ago (couldn't take it to London with us) while my sister and bro in-law were happy to kick up their feet and relax while Tia Mu (me) entertained the girls with activities.

It was absolutely perfect. The family time, the quiet time, the nature time. I can't think of a better Christmas gift than the gift of an experience with the ones you love. So happy.

simple christmas touches

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A few simple touches of gold and red around our home have really made it feel like Christmas. From framing wrapping paper to making a mock fireplace, I'm quite happy with what I put together with the little that we have and can commit to. I really thought that we'd go without a tree this year since very few natural ones are imported (and are crazy expensive) so I was happy to find a little felt one from MUJI. It may not be big enough to put presents underneath, or give off the lovely smell of pine, but I love it. And best of all, we can flatten it and take it with us wherever we go without taking up much space. Maybe one day we'll have dedicated garage space for holiday decor but for now, we've gotta stick to a large shoe box ;)

How do you decorate for the holidays? Do you deck the halls or just have a few favorite pieces?


weekend, we

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Hi guys, how was your weekend? Overall ours was good but I didn't get to the Christmas crafting I had planned since shopping for supplies was a huge disappointment. I definitely miss places like Michael's, Joanne's, Staples, Target, The Container Store...you name it. Even just looking for tapered candles for our new vintage holders proved to be an impossible mission. You have it real easy, America. Real easy.

On the bright side...

- I used what bits of Christmas we had from London and created a mock-fireplace with the help of this awesome video.

- I found berries at our florist and paired them next to a giant local leaf (mixing traditional and tropical :)

- We ate brunch at a restaurant that serves real bacon. Non-Halal places (at least those serving western food) are very rare in KL so the meal was a really nice treat.

Did any of you start decorating for Christmas this weekend?

the {big} brugge round-up

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two trains and 3.5 hours - hello brugge! original flooring and glass stained window at our B&B St. Jacobs horse and carriage i ate the whole thing. by myself. last shot of the night before the rain picked up ready for exploring the aftermath of the first day's/night's storm taking it all in (love the step peaks of the buildings to my right) brugge canal. some bridges dated as far back to the 15th century watch your head! these little solder looking fellows held window shutters open all over the city brugge parking lot - love this! one of three cats we saw in a shop window display. how much? reminders of the city's textile past stocked up at Depla Chocolatier hot chocolate with amaretto for me, irish coffe for Joe. santas doing a polar bear swim arrival free treats while we watch - thanks, Santa! brugge parking against a typical color-glass window so festive at night the local brew

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Phew! This round-up took longer to put together than expected but there it is - bits and pieces of our adventures in Brugge! Since there are so many tidbits to share, I'm just going to list a few instead of doing a formal write up (yes, I'm being lazy but there's more to come this week).

• bikes are parked everywhere you go, some with a lock and chain but most just rest against a wall (lotsa trust in this town). people were out riding their bikes even in the worst of the storm, too. made me feel like a pansy knowing that I would never do that.

• with church bells chiming, horse and carriages trotting along, canal boat tours and more,  i found myself thinking "this place is like Disneyland" when really, Disneyland looks and feels like this place. it's seriously that charming!

• the waffles, chocolate, and beer are as good as everyone says they are. i've never eaten an entire waffle without getting a food coma but these were special and light - i could eat two...or three.

• polar bear swimming means variety show. we just wanted to see people jump in the canal and be crazy but instead, groups of swimmers each did a cheesy skit before anti-climactically diving into the water. We stayed for three of those, got our candy from Santa and moved on. However, it was funny to see the cold swimmers be greeted with a shot of Jägermeister and branded knit hat once they got out of the water.

• the town shines for Christmas. lights, decorations, festive markets - its medieval architecture is the perfect backdrop for a classic holiday experience.

• our B&B owner was super friendly and knowledgeable about the best local spots (I'll share his amazing recommendations for chocolates later). we definitely recommend St. Jacobs B&B for a modern, homey, and cozy stay in the city but away from the crowds.

• unfortunately, i didn't do any vintage shopping but Madam Mim is a well curated little shop worth returning for (and the canal-side flea market they have in the summers!). Lots of other antique shops on that street, too.

There's lots of reasons to go back to Brugge - flea market or not. It is one cool town. Stay tuned for more!

weekend, we

Hi, how was your weekend?

We slept, lounged and watched lots of online TV and movies. Yet after a 1pm breakfast on Saturday we somehow mustered up the energy and enthusiasm to go out to Greenwich for the afternoon. By the time we left the flat and got to the river taxi it was nearly sunset. I was initially bummed to have missed the day's sunshine but quickly got over it as we cruised east on the Thames with a beautiful warm glow trailing behind us.

Greenwich was fantastic. Though we were only there for a few hours and didn't stray too far from the market, I saw just enough to fall in love with its village charm. The market was full of great indie designers and artists, the street-food stalls were just the right mix and quantity (I ate Ethiopian, Joe ate English), and the shops and restaurants around the market block were equally independent and intriguing. It was a mad house as lots of people were doing their Christmas shopping so I'd love to return on a quieter  day to take my time to visit each store (especially a vintage one that had an amazing coat in the window!). We didn't leave empty handed though. We quickly fell for the Arty Globe drawings of London artist Hartwig Braun. We're not really into traditional tourist souvenir items but 1) we needed coasters and 2) his cityscape drawings are awesome so if you're going to buy something "London-y" then this is your guy.

After a round of the best mojitos in town, it was back to the river taxi and onward to our local pub for a final night cap. They have a seasonal hot drinks menu and I'm taking all of the hot cider and hot toddies I can get. We've been spending a lot of time there lately but can you blame us? Especially this time of year when it looks and feels extra extra cozy? On the walk home (literally 45 seconds) we spotted exterior Christmas lights on a residential building - a very rare sight in London as I've only seen retail stores do anything outside. I'll be you anything that those flat residents are American but, I'll take it as it instantly put a smile on my face. Tis the season indeed.

Crafty aspirations

After attending Unique LA and Renegade Craft Fair this weekend I was inspired to make my own wrapping paper for this year's Christmas presents.

I used a roll of white butcher paper that I keep on hand for product photography and metallic paints and stencils from a craft bin that has gone unused for ages.

The end result was so satisfying...I now vow to make mini-craft sessions a regular part of my life. Hold me to it!