Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Raisin Molasses Gems

Don't get me wrong, I love living with Zach in our own mini apartment.

But, during the holidays I sometimes miss living at home. Why? Because my mom's a crazy baker lady, and her house is always full of Christmas cookies.

Every once in a while, I'll get lucky: she'll overnight me a big batch of whatever she's concocted that week (this is your not-so-subtle hint, mom.) But there hasn't been a package for a while... and lately I've found myself craving some home-made delicacies.

So, tonight I rolled up my sleeves and baked my favorite of the Christmas cookies: Raisin Molasses Gems. (Recipe below.)

Now it feels like Christmas-time.

Raisin Molasses Gems

3/4 cup shortening (I use the organic, non-hydrogenated version)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup raisins

Beat shortening and 1 cup sugar until light & fluffy. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Combine flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger & salt. Add to molasses mixture; mix well. Stir in raisins. Cover; refrigerate until chilled (a few hours).

Shape into 1-inch balls; roll each in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake in upper third of preheated 350* oven for 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute; transfer to wire racks.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Stockings Are Hung

Decorating for Christmas is tricky. 

Let's be honest: the best time to buy Christmas decorations is after Christmas - when they're all on sale. (Because otherwise, who can afford to spend $8 on individual ornaments at Anthropologie, West Elm, or even Target?)

Last year after Christmas however, I was in crazy wedding planning mode. Stocking up on discounted decor was the furthest thing from my mind. 

So, this year, I had to start from scratch... on a limited budget. And, although I'll definitely be sale shopping later in December, right now I'm pretty proud of the way the apartment's looking - just with a few DIY projects.

I'm trying to keep the decorations as simple as possible.

I limited the number of hand-made ornaments we used. This way, the tree wouldn't be hidden behind a bunch of ribbon and glass.

I also incorporated these doily snowflakes throughout our living room. They were super easy to make - and have a surprisingly huge impact.

Remember this garland? He hasn't moved from his perch. And now, he even has a few new friends. 

How are you decorating this year?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

This holiday weekend I:

1) Volunteered at the Los Angeles Mission's Thanksgiving event. My company does the Mission's PR, so I was tasked with helping these lovely ladies (along with Kirk and Anne Douglas) feed meals to the homeless.

2) Finished The Hunger Games series. I couldn't put it down. And, now I'm SO excited about the movie...

3) Made my first ever Thanksgiving meal (with limited calls to my mom) - complete with turkey breast, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes.

4) Spent time with Zach's dad, sister (Kara), her fiance (Tim), and their puppy Enzo (below.) Kara and Tim are AMAZING chefs. You can read about the meal they made for us here.

5) Got our Christmas tree. (The house already smells wonderful...)

6) Started decorating for Christmas (more pictures to come later this week.)

All in all, a good weekend. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Seeing Stars

Exciting news!

Zach and I are being featured in the "Last Look" portion of December's Portland Bride & Groom magazine.

Here's the corresponding article:

This arch of twinkling sparklers made for a brilliant send-off after Alison Rienas and Zachary Piepmeyer's March 12, 2011, nuptials, held in an octagonal barn at the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse. See all of those energetic faces among their friends and family? That's because the savvy couple decided to limit their reception to an action-packed two-and-a-half-hours. "A lot of weddings can drag on," Rienas says, "So we made it our goal to have everyone leave wishing it had gone on longer!"

Rienas is a Portland native, but the newly minted Mrs. and Mr. currently reside in sunny West Hollywood. The complexity of planning a mostly DIY affair from afar meant having to forgo a few details that Rienas was hoping to incorporate, like vintage furniture for lounging, elaborate place settings, and fun flag garlands. "But you quickly realize that the small things are just that - small," Rienas says, "when you're surrounded by the big love of the people who know you best."

It's a good thing my mom and I made that last-minute decision to use sparklers...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving thanks for...

{photo from here}

... the best husband ever.
... a car that is paid off (and doesn't have too many breakdowns, yet.)
... eyesight. 
... an amazing family that's all alive and well. 
... Hulu.
... brussel sprouts. 
... my health. 
... a warm bed to lay my head. 
... my college education. 
... the feminist movement. 
... a good-paying job, with healthcare. 
... a creative mind. 
... a voice.
... West Elm. 
... Feist and Florence & The Machine.
... Trader Joe's. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Warm & Cozy

I'm freezing... and have been for the past week.

The weather took a dive (it's down to 40* at some times - yikes!) and my wardrobe, I'm realizing, is ill-prepared.

So, now I'm the hunt for sweaters. Lots of warm & cozy sweaters.

[photo from here]

[photo from here]

[photo from here]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mr. Enzo

This cute little pup kept me company tonight.

We went for a walk, played fetch, practiced our "sitting," and watched a movie together. 

He and my husband are now soundly asleep (Friday night is crazy at PiepHaus) and I'm enjoying a quiet evening alone with my thoughts. 

It's all about the simple things in life...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I've been working on a garland for our Christmas tree all week.

For it, I had to make millions* of little yarn balls (which resulted in multiple hand cramps.) When I finished, I expected the garland to be at least 8 feet long (so, obviously, it could wrap around my tree.)

Not so.

I doubt this poor little garland would wrap around a tree once.

Now it's hanging on my wall instead.

Still festive, no?

*Maybe not millions... but a lot.

Not the Cookies

Have you ever had gingerbread? 

Not the cookies, I mean real gingerbread. Real thick, ginger bread?

A few years ago, a friend's mom introduced me to this delightful holiday treat. And, now it's a staple in my holiday baking repertoire.

I was feeling festive tonight, so I made a batch. (Although, I didn't have molasses, so I cheated with the Trader Joe's box brand.)

With black tea and cream, and a dab of butter, it's a little slice of heaven. 

So, if you find yourself itching for something new this holiday season, I've included the recipe below. 
(Or, for lazy people like myself, I've heard that Trader Joe's has an excellent boxed version.)

Rindy's Old Fashioned Gingerbread 
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 cup hot water

Heat oven to 350.
Beat sugar, shortening, egg. Add molasses.
In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.
Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add hot water and mix until smooth.
Bake in 13"x9" greased pan for 25-30 minutes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


"Marry me. Marry me, my wonderful, darling friend." 

Do you have a go-to movie that just makes you happy each time you watch it? 

Mine is Emma

She kept me company tonight as I crafted a garland for our Christmas tree. 

All of Austen's stories are wonderful, but Emma is my favorite... probably because it's about long-time friends who finally realize they love each other. Not unlike Zach and I. (Although, I always knew I loved him.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Evening Walks

Zach and I have a new evening routine: walking after dinner. 

[photo from here]

There's just something about wandering around our neighborhood, holding hands and catching up after a long day.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Painted Plates

I love having holiday themed dishes. But, I'm SUPER picky about the ones I like (and they tend to be too expensive for my meager holiday budget.) Thus, this year I decided to make my own. (Who needs West Elm anyway?)

My friend Angi introduced me to Pebeo Porcelaine paint (found at most craft stores.) You can paint it onto any porcelain surface, bake it, and viola! A "Color-Me-Mine" creation from the comfort of your own home.

For this particular project, I bought a cheap platter from Ross. Then, I found a turkey silhouette online (since I can't freehand a turkey. They're very detailed little birds.)

I cut out the silhouette so it formed a sort-of stencil - which i taped to the platter.

Once it was attached, I painted inside the stencil until no white showed through. Then I removed the paper, did some touch ups and... ta da!

After baking for 30 minutes at 350* it's safe to use for our Thanksgiving dinner (in less than 2 weeks!)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)"

Zach and I are so awkward. 

Here's tonight's example (at Mindy Kaling's book signing):

Alison: Is your hand cramping yet? 
Mindy: Not really. I love your outfit!
Alison: Thanks! (Awkward pause.) I have to be honest, I dressed up to come see you.
Mindy: Oh... Wow, really? Well, it's really cute. 
Zach: What about my outfit? You didn't say that you liked mine.  
Mindy: Huh? Oh, um...

Mindy: So, how do you guys know each other? 
Alison: Well, we're married.
Mindy: But, you're so...

Alison: Young? Yes. We're very young, probably too young. (Awkward pause.) We actually met watching The Office together.  
Mindy: Really? That's crazy. 
Alison: Yea. You should write about it in your next book. Ha. Ha.
Zach: That's something right there, isn't it? That's something. 

Mindy: Yea... And, you guys are so cute, buying two books - and you're married!
Zach: Well, we don't share. Just because we're married doesn't mean we share. 
(Awkward pause.)
Mindy: Welp. Nice meeting you...
Alison: Yea. See ya. 


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bread Pudding

I'd never heard of bread pudding until I met Zach. 

Zach LOVES bread pudding - and eats it whenever possible. But frankly, at first I thought bread pudding was disgusting. I mean, soggy bread? Gross.

But then, I discovered this recipe for pumpkin bread pudding on my favorite food blog (Smitten Kitchen) and I knew I had to make it... for Zach. 

I've converted. 

Tonight was already the second time I've made it - in the last week. Besides being incredibly easy to make, it's deliciously decadent. 
Perfect for a chilly November night.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Christmas Craft - Glass Ornaments

OK. I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet -  and I shouldn't be talking about Christmas. 
But, I'm trying to get ahead on my home-made Christmas decorations... Sooooo. Yeah, about that.

I saw this ornament on a blog I follow:
[photo from here]

And, in true Alison fashion, I thought: "Pshaw. I could make those."
So - here's my version.

To make these, you only need two things:

1) Clear glass ornaments from the craft store.

2) Dried plants, also from the craft store. 

I found TONS of dried plants at Michael's (a whole aisle dedicated to them!), but it was a little more tricky to find plants small enough to fit through the opening at the top of the ornaments (AND within my color scheme.)

The next step was easy. I cut the plants down so they fit into the ornament... and then stuck them in. Viola! Unique additions to any Christmas tree.

Word to the wise:  I suggest using something other than your fingers to push unruly branches down into the glass. One of the ornaments I used had a sharp opening at the top - which attacked my pinky finger. (Poor little guy got a nasty, bloody scratch. He's now being soaked in a vat of Neosporin.)

But, (other than this minor injury,) Christmas craft #1 = success. 

More ideas to come...

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our Favorite LA Restaurants: Part 2

This post is a continuation of one I wrote a few weeks ago - a list of Zach and my favorite LA restaurants. (If you missed it last time, read it here.)

Like I mentioned before: we're not experts, we just love a good plate of food. And, in our humble opinion, these are the best places to find them.

Tonight, we pick up with the best Thai restaurant I've ever been to:

6. Daisy Mint in Pasadena

[photo from here]

I'm a sucker for Thai food - and I've eaten at many, many, many Thai restaurants. That being said, Daisy Mint gets my vote for the BEST Thai restaurant. Besides having to-die-for curry, their Daisy Noodle dish (although weird looking) is delicious. (Am I raving enough?)

7. Din Tai Fung in Arcadia

[photo from here]

Zach and I frequented this dumpling house almost weekly when we lived out east. And, we pretty much always got the same thing: juicy pork dumplings (dipped in vinegar) and green beans.  Thank you to Kara Piepmeyer for introducing us to these steamy, brothy little delicacies. (I'm really wishing I had a plate right now.)

8. Umami Burger in Los Feliz

[photo from here]

Better than In-N-Out. There. I said it.

9. Carmela Ice Cream in Pasadena

[photo from here]

I just tried this fabulous ice cream at the South Pasadena Farmer's Market. OMG. My life will never be the same. With delicious flavors like Cucumber Sorbet, Cardamom, Brown Butter Sage, and Salted Caramel, how could i not love it?  

10. Urth Caffe in Beverly Hills

[photo from here]

We've been frequenting Urth Caffe for years. I've always loved their fun coffee art (seen here) and their decadent entrees. More recently however, I was introduced to their pumpkin pie. (Insert happy sigh here.) I'm sorry, but your grandma's pumpkin pie doesn't even come close to the taste of this. Yum, yummers, yummy.

More to come!
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