Christmas morning

No white Christmas this year (other than repeated viewings of the Bing Crosby movie), but we do finally have a mantel to hang our stockings on. The fireplace doesn’t work, so we used it as a Christmas tree cove instead. Fortunately, Santa came!

There was some ornament overflow since we only have a tiny tree this year, but that’s OK.

The big to-do came when we had to overturn the bubble bread and see if it came out all right. It puffed up nicely overnight.

Baked for 30 minutes.

And then the moment of truth…


Making it in the bundt pan gives you more doughy pieces since some of them get squished during the rise. But overall it’s just ooey gooey and wonderful.

Hope everyone had a merry Christmas!

Day at the dog park

We took advantage of a sunny Christmas Eve and headed to the dog park at Point Isabel. It’s kind of like a dog park on steroids – it’s huge! It feels more like a nature preserve, with pelicans swooping down into the bay. But you can definitely tell it’s a dog park because it’s always just packed with dogs of all shapes and sizes.

This might be one of my favorite photos of all time.

By the time we get back to the car the dogs are coated in muddy water (my wellies are getting quite a bit of wear here). But they snooze for the rest of the night and seem a lot more content to hang out in our cozy house after a good run.

Now that’s a happy pup!

A walk in the neighborhood

We have had so much rain lately. So. Much. Rain. So when the sun comes out, you have to take advantage, and it did this morning.

I took the dogs for a walk around the neighborhood. Even though it was sunny here, it was foggy over the city, so I still couldn’t get you a decent photo of the bridge. It’s funny, sometimes you can see it best on a cloudy day, but with no fog.

Some of my neighbors are in the Christmas spirit. The decorations look a bit out of place, but I still appreciate them.

Bumper stickers are pretty entertaining around here.

Alrighty then.

I’ve decided we need to get a hummingbird feeder.

I’ve already seen a few different varieties twitting around, and I want to see them in our yard.

Also, I kept seeing these darling birdhouses in people’s yards and wondering where I could get one. They look just like miniature versions of real houses.

Then last weekend I saw a truck full of them while I was out shopping. It turns out there’s a Web site called that sells them!

We also checked out this very full and popular diner called Bette’s that is known for giant puff pancakes. We opted for eggs instead, which are cooked extra soft with gourmet (at least for diner food) toppings. I loved it. I thought it was a rare place that was totally worth the hype and the 45-minute wait.

Bubble bread!

Remember when I said we had our bubble bread over Thanksgiving since we wouldn’t be home for Christmas? Well, I decided I couldn’t live without it on Christmas day, so I asked my mom for the recipe and we’re going to make it.

Tradition calls for making it in a bundt pan so you can turn it over and have a perfectly shaped round of goodness. I don’t think we’ve ever even used our bundt pan, so we’re going to try it this time. Add veggie sausage and mimosas — perfect Christmas morning!

Christmas Morning Bubble Bread

from the depths of the Mason family recipe box

1 package frozen dinner rolls (24 Parker House style rolls)
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 cup pecan pieces

Melt 1 stick of butter and mix it with the brown sugar. Pour into an ungreased bundt pan (or 2 smaller baking pans). Sprinkle nuts over the brown sugar mixture.

Melt the other stick of butter. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Dip each frozen roll in butter, then roll in sugar mixture and arrange in pan.

Mix leftover butter and sugar mixture and drizzle over top.

Cover and let rise overnight (we usually just set it inside the oven so it’s ready to go). It will probably get huge. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to.

For this one we added some extra rolls and baked them in a huge rectangular pan.

In the morning, bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert rolls onto a serving plate.

*Edited to add some new photos, using the bundt pan.

Rolls, after they have risen overnight.

Bundt pan, fresh out of the oven after baking.

Inverting the pan onto a plate. It takes a few shakes to get it loose.

Mmmmm, the finished product.

Christmas cookies!

I took two kinds of cookies to Mike’s work holiday party in an attempt to make friends, and it totally worked.

If you haven’t started your holiday baking yet, might I make a few suggestions?

Chocolate Suzies
Because if love isn’t a Reese’s peanut butter cup nestled inside a chocolate chip cookie, I don’t know what is.

Glammed up peanut blossoms
A traditional cookie made special with dark chocolate kisses and raw sugar crystals.

• Candy stripe cookie sticks
Make Martha proud this year.

Sugar cookies
If you opt for frosting out of a can, I won’t tell.

• Pepparkakor
I saw these in the IKEA cookbook so they must be legit!

• Red velvet sandwiches
Everyone else is doing red velvet cupcakes. Be different.

Peanut butter ball cookies
I am thinking about making these “million dollar cookies” right now.

Chocolate crinkles
Yum, yum, yum, and yum. ‘Nuff said.

I could keep going, but if you want more recipes just head over to my recipe archive.

Also, I would love to see some of your holiday cookie recipes, so please share in the comments!

Those twinkling lights

I don’t have the steadiest hand at nighttime photos, but I thought I should at least attempt to show you how pretty the lights look from our backyard and bedroom window at night.

If only the sound of the BART train whooshing by every 20 minutes was as romantic…

We’re here

I feel like I have been lost in space and time for a while, and now I’m finally ready to regroup. One day I woke up and I was married, in my 30s, and living in California. Whoa!

First impressions of our new home:

I love our house. It is perfect for us. I realize now how many things were wrong with our place and how much we put up with over the last few years. Plus, we had so much yard, garage, basement, etc. I think it became too much for us to manage.

My favorite part of the house is our bedroom window. We have sheer curtains that face the Berkeley hills. At night all the lights in the houses kind of twinkle on the hillside.

I don’t have a nighttime photo, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

I’m also in love with the size of my office/craft room. It’s huge!

There was an extra mattress down here when we moved in, so even the dogs have a bed. Not the most attractive decor, but I had to do something with all that space in the middle of the room.

Since our garage is small, we moved a lot of our ugly storage containers to this room, so I put up a little curtain to hide them. Now I need to make some curtains for the bare windows. I’m not much of a seamstress, but I think I can handle that. Suggestions welcome!

Our neighborhood is nowhere near as cute as Beaverdale, but we do have awesome neighbors. During those first few tired confusing days, Michael and Meri loaned us whatever we needed and brought us warm cranberry bread and just generally made us feel welcome. That meant a lot.

Living here makes me realize that I’ve never lived anywhere with actual traffic or actual diversity. You can get pretty much anything you want here (not only does every store have a nearby location, most of them have 2 or 3), but you have to get there first. And I have never spent so much time sitting in traffic or circling parking lots for a spot. Even at the grocery store or Target! On the plus side, you can always walk, ride your bike, or take the BART if you need to get somewhere sans car.

One thing that makes me laugh is that Berkeley, just like Boulder, has the unofficial car. In Boulder it was a Subaru, but here it’s definitely a Volvo station wagon. I’m kind of pining for one now.

Another small but interesting thing. The garbage cans (the brown ones) are much smaller than the compost and recycling cans.

You can put food waste and even paper milk containers into your compost bin, which I love. I’m not sure if it’s out of eco-friendliness or lack of landfill space, but it works for me.

At the moment I am obsessed with this grocery store called the Berkeley Bowl. It’s like a hippie natural foods store mixed with a Whole Foods mixed with a regular grocery store. So you can get pretty much anything there rather than making three separate trips. They even make their own peanut butter!

I am hoarding these organic yogurts that have a layer of cream on top and fruit on the bottom. Yum yum yum.

The weather seems to be pretty simple. In winter it is either foggy, raining, or both, pretty much every day. I do miss seeing the sun. I don’t miss shoveling snow or driving on ice. Most days it’s light jacket weather, but some days I have even had on short sleeves. People here dress as if it’s full-on winter, which makes me giggle. I’m sure we’ll completely wimp out in a matter of time.

One thing we never get tired of is the view from the top of the hill we live on. As soon as you get over the crest you see the bay, and if it’s clear enough off in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.

If you squint hard, you can see the bridge behind that light pole.

The whole fog thing is no joke.

Sometimes I forget SF is even over there because I spend pretty much all of my time in the east bay. But it’s there, and even on a crummy day it’s gorgeous.

Last Sunday Mike decided he needed to see the Pacific for the first time, so we drove over to Marin County to Muir Beach. It was getting dark, but you could still see the waves crashing onto big rocks and a couple of kayakers out in the distance.

Then we had dinner at this cute little British pub and drove the incredibly windy road back home (only about 1/2 an hour).

We have a lot of exploring left to do, and it will be hard not to be home for Christmas. But I’d say we’re pretty happy in our new home.

Headin’ west

The drive to our new home in California was pretty simple: Get on I-80, go west.

Really – we live very close to an entrance ramp for I-80, so it was pretty easy to get here. For the most part the drive was long, with lots of miles in between towns. The snowy mountain ranges were beautiful (and thankfully not snowy on the actual roads). I loved our stop in Salt Lake City, and want to go back sometime. The wind in Wyoming was unbelievable!

We ended up mailing three boxes of stuff that wouldn’t fit in the car and we still crammed more stuff than you would believe into our tiny Yaris. But the dogs curled up on their makeshift bed and pretty much slept through the whole trip.

In pictures…

My Des Moines Top 5

I had to bid Des Moines farewell, but I thought I’d tip my hat to what I believe is a vastly underestimated city by giving you my Des Moines Top 5 (once upon a time a feature I put together for Juice magazine).

1. The East Village. OK, so maybe it’s cheating to make a whole neighborhood one item, but I really do think this part of town has become the heartbeat of the city. All of the independent business owners that adopted this neighborhood have made it into an extraordinary place to shop, eat, and socialize. I appreciate all the shops that carry local handmade goodies (Ephemera, Vitae, Domestica, Porch Light Antiques…), I’ve always loved the sights and smells at Eden, and I am definitely rocking my Raygun T-shirts here on the west coast.

2. A Dong. Mike and I probably ate at this Vietnamese restaurant more than we ate anywhere else in the city. Mostly because of the vegetarian options (yummy noodle soups and crispy egg rolls), but we grew to have a soft spot for the servers like Thai and Neal.

3. The crafty community. Thinking about the people I met in Des Moines through my crafty endeavors and won’t see everyday is probably the thing that gets me the most teary about leaving Iowa. I was just blown away by the talent in Des Moines and the drive that locals had to create events like Craft Saturday and Market Day. Creativity is so important to the growth of a community, and Des Moines has it in spades.

4. Beaverdale. I’m so glad I got to spend the last four years of my time in Des Moines in this great neighborhood. The brick houses, quiet streets and friendly neighbors are like something out of a movie, but it really exists. I will truly miss those Snookies’ ice cream cones in the summertime.

5. My yogis. It sounds totally cliche, but it’s totally true — Yoga changed my life. If I hadn’t met Sandi Hoover from The Family Tree back when she was teaching at Firehouse (now Harmony), I don’t know where I’d be. Both of those studios are alive and well, and you should definitely check them out if you haven’t yet.

Fall in Beaverdale.