Sunday, December 13, 2009


Here are a few photos of some of the recent cupcakes I've been making... and their recipies! So yummy!

Orange Spice Chai Cupcakes with Vanilla Spice Buttercream Frosting

2 ½ cups sifted cake flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

zest of one medium orange

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 chai tea baga

¼ cup water

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup orange juice, preferably fresh squeezed

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray cupcake tins with baking spray or grease and flour them.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in medium bowl. Set aside.
Place sugars in a medium bowl. Add zest. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar. Oils should release and give your sugar an orange flavor.
In a small saucepan, bring ¼ cup water to a simmer. Add tea bag. Leave for 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you want the flavor. Remove tea bag. Let cool to room temperature. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer, add the oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat at high speed of an electric mixer for 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl often.
In a large liquid measuring cup add cooled tea, buttermilk, and orange juice.
Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk/chai mixture, starting with and ending with the dry ingredients.
Mix until fully incorporated and batter is smooth with no lumps.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and move cupcakes to wire rack to finish cooling. When cool, frost with buttercream.

Vanilla Spice Buttercream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 to 8 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

2 tsp vanilla extract
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.
Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the spices, and vanilla.
On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar.
Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Mocha cake filled with coffee whipped cream topped with coffee buttercream and a chocolate covered espresso bean.

The Nitty Gritty:
A luscious, moist cupcake filled with espresso buttercream and topped with dark chocolate frosting and chocolate covered espresso bean.
• Prep Time: 1.5 hours (includes cooling, filling, & frosting)
• Yields: 17 cupcakes

These fantastic, handheld desserts come together in a three-part process: First, bake the cupcakes. Next, make the dark chocolate frosting and the espresso buttercream filling (see recipes below). Then, assemble and serve — and enjoy the smiles on the faces of the recipients!
Note: You’ll need a pastry bag to fill the cupcakes with the espresso buttercream. Disposable ones are available at most grocery stores.
You can use either a standing mixer fitted with the beater attachment, or a handheld electric mixer.
• ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1 ⅓ cups baker's (superfine) sugar
• ¼ tsp. kosher salt
• ¼ Tbsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 6 Tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup Greek yogurt, or plain, if you can't find Greek
• 24 cupcake liners
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
• Mix butter and baker's sugar with an electric mixer on high until the mixture's color lightens, about 5 minutes.
• Reduce speed to low and add eggs, one at a time, until fully combined.
• Add half the flour mixture and continue mixing on low. Add the Greek yogurt and vanilla, then the rest of the flour. Mix until just combined.
• Spoon into lined muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
• Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack.
Espresso Buttercream Filling
2 Tbsp. hot water
1.5 tsp instant espresso powder
1.5 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
• Dissolve espresso powder in hot water and set aside.
• With electric mixer, mix the powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and the espresso mixture. Whip until creamy, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Dark Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
9 oz. dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) I use Lindt... the better the chocolate, the better the taste!
0.5 c. baker's sugar
3 egg whites
0.5 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of cream of tartar
• Melt chocolate in a double boiler and set aside to cool. Leave pot of simmering water on the stove.
• Place egg whites, cream of tartar, and baker's sugar in a stainless steel bowl and place over the double boiler. Whisk by hand -- rotating the bowl and removing it from the heat, if necessary, to prevent the egg whites from cooking -- until they are warm to the touch.
• Grab the electric mixer again and beat on high until the meringue holds a stiff peak. Add butter and continue to mix.
• Add chocolate and vanilla and mix until combined.
To assemble the cupcakes:
• Add the espresso buttercream frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a plain attachment.
• Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the top of each cupcake. Push the tip nearly all the way through, then pull it back a bit. Inject about 1 Tbsp. of frosting, then carefully remove. (It's good to get a hang of the pastry bag by practicing on a plate first. Don't worry, you'll have plenty of filling left.) Just as the cupcake starts to inflate, stop filling it -- otherwise it will crack, or shoot out the sides!
• Top each cupcake with the chocolate frosting.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Growing T.

Here's a little month-by-month comparison of our baby boy:

MONTH O: 9lbs 6oz


MONTH 2: 15.66lbs

MONTH 3: 18lbs

Month 4: 20+lbs

Month 5: 23lbs (note: the max. weight on the car seat is 22lbs)

Month 6!

Month 7

Month 8
Month 9
Month 10
Month 11
One Year!

Champagne, France

Four years of marriage have seemed to have just flown by. To celebrate we took a long weekend trip to France. Along the way however, we had to make a stop at one of our favorite monasteries, Orval. Situated on the Belgium- French border, Orval is one of the 7 remaining trappist monasteries in the world. We have been here before, J., W., and I but we didn’t have time to tour the place. This trip we did; and we had a wonderful time exploring the ruins of the old monastery.
We were then off to stay the night in our chateau B&B in France. Situated in the tiniest of villages in the Champagne region, Harricourt the chateau La Montgonière was a rustic home built in the 1700’s.
J., T., and I took a trip from our chateau to the heart of the Champagne region, Reims and Épernay. In the town of Épernay, we were able to visit the champagne house Moët et Chandon and tour their cellars. What a great experience we had, and the sampling at the end of the tour was most welcome. We both learned a lot about champagne making and why Dom Perignon is considered to be the best champagne in the world.
After a fun-filled day of champagne tasting, our next day took us to the town of Sedan, 10k from the Belgium border, located in the historic Ardennes. Sedan is the home of the largest fortified castle in Europe, which now is home to a hotel as well as a museum. This area of France is well know for the important battles played there, not the least of which was the WWII battle which involved the Maginot Line.
Oh, and least I forget to mention, the food was fabulous! We have no idea what we ate, but we really enjoyed it.

Here’s a link to our photos:

First day of School!

First day of school, First day of school, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!
W. started the kindergarten year on August 19th this year. She goes every morning for five days a week. We thought that be immersing her in the German kindergarten she would be able to learn the language faster. And guess what? She is!

Zeeland, NL

A little over two and a half hours is the Netherland coastline called Zeeland. It is a beautiful little beach spot, perfect to spend the afternoon with your family. The water was warm enough to wade and swim in, and the sand was perfect for basking; as long as you brought some shade! We enjoyed clear blue skies and a cool breeze. The ice cream man even made a little money off of us... yum, cold ice cream on a hot day! After our outing on the beach, we traversed over the dyke and filled our bellies with the biggest pot of mussels J. or I had ever had set before us. W. had her normal 'juice and nothing else' and T., well you all know what he eats!

Here's a little information about the place if you're interested:

And more photos:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Welcome Baby Boy!

Wednesday July 8th, 2009 Taylor James Archer was born! He arrived at 1237am in a small little hospital in Germany. He weighed in at 4260g (9.2lbs) and 56cm (22in). He has sparse brown hair and blue eyes. Personally I think he looks like his sister did when she was born. We're still recovering at the hospital, so more to come soon!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Vienna, Austria

A couple of weeks ago J. was sent to Austria to do some survey work for an air show. Lucky for W. and I, daddy invited us along. We flew out of Dusseldorf and into Vienna on a Thursday and couldn’t have asked for a better flight. Short and sweet is nice- especially when traveling with a three year old and being 34 weeks pregnant. From the airport we took the metro to downtown which was cheap and efficient.

There’s so much to see in Vienna, it’s hard to find a place to start. J. scoped out the area by taking a tram around the city, and W. and I rested. We were then ready to check out the local scene. There are churches galore and being the home of the Hapsburg empire, there are no shortages of palaces and monuments to see. We strolled through the main shopping district and then headed over to the winter place to see what we could find. Horse drawn carriages dominate the streets here so it was precarious crossing the roads, but somehow we made it.

The Hofburg Imperial Palace is an impressive site in central Vienna and it is home to several institutions including the Vienna Boy’s Choir and the Spanish Riding School. This is the place where Marie Antoinette was born…

A number of museums are also located close by in the Museumsquartier- a few of which J. had time to investigate. W. and I decided the butterfly house was the place to see- beautiful and great for children, but with extremely high humidity and lots of heat for our winged friends I came out with a drenched shirt and frizzy hair- just how you want to look while touring a big city!

From the time I was a little girl, I have always wanted to see the Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) J. and W. both agreed to accompany me, and it was one of the best performances of horsemanship I have ever seen. I was very impressed and excited to have been able to experience one of my life long dreams. For anyone traveling to Vienna, I recommend spending an evening here- or at the least viewing a morning exercise at the school.

The Danube River cuts though the city, however there is a long narrow island of park for city dwellers to enjoy nature upon. This is a perfect place for children being that cars are not allowed and there are playgrounds and ice cream shops aplenty. It is a good place to go to see the city from the river and to get away from the masses of tourists in the city center.

We were lucky enough to find a hotel in the downtown with in walking distance to most attractions we wanted to see. Very friendly staff and excellent breakfasts:

J. was able to enjoy the city a bit more because of the fight schedules and had a wonderful time exploring the summer place of the Hapsburgs: Schönbrunn Palace. Here are a few photos from our trip- (remember I am huge pregnant here and the camera was the last thing I wanted to carry around… sorry for the sparcity…)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Just a few belly pics...

Little boy is growing.... here are a few pictures from week 31- we're at week 33.5 now! July 2nd is still the EDD... hope all is well with everyone, the Archers are doing great!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3rd time is a charm....

Today was the day- three years ago a beautiful princess was born. She didn't have any hair nor could she eat solid food but it was love at first sight for all of those who saw her.

After time, she learned how to walk and talk and demand. She grew some hair and and attitude- and today you no longer see a princess... but a little diva queen. Here's the story of her third birthday...

W. awoke this morning only to rushed off to kindergarten in a new skirt and her 'fancy' sandals. When we arrived, every one knew it was her Geburtstag (birthday) and a special birthday hat was made for her. Several songs were sung in her honor and birthday cupcakes were shared all around. She was in the spotlight and loving it. The whole class was invited to play out of doors for 45 minutes; sand digging was commenced as well as teeter tottering and running at top speed screaming. Fun for all...

Lunchtime provided a quick snack followed by visiting and presents from friends- and then this thread was continued after siesta. We spent the afternoon planting seeds in the garden, digging the dirt and reading books.

After a super quick dinner we rushed off to the ice cream parlor to meet some friends and enjoy some treats. Again it was play, play, play then bite of melty ice cream then play some more. By the time the diva queen was taken to the tub for her daily bath, she was brown from head to toe- but how else would you want to end your 3rd birthday day?

Thank you to all that sent packages and phoned- W. had a wonderful day because of you!

Here's the link for todays photos:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mosel Valley

Last Easter we took a little trip to the Rhine Valley to see the infamous vineyards and view the considerable amount of castles left in ruin and restore by the locals. THIS year for Easter we visited the Rhine’s little sister the Mosel.
Being granted time for good behavior J. and I were able to take a trip alone for the first time in over three years. This being the case, we were able to stop at any place we fancied, and stay out as late as we wished.
First stop: Deutsche Eck (German Corner) a place in Germany where the Rhine River meets the Mosel; located in Koblenz it is considered the “Alamo” of Germany. Wilhelm I united Germany, and this is a monument to him and of what he accomplished. Not only is this a historic site, but it’s also home to a beer garden or two… lunch in Koblenz was very good!
Recommended by our favorite guide book author Rick Steves’, Burg Eltz is one of the most beautifully preserved castles in Germany today. Untouched by war due to careful planning and smart marriages, Burg Eltz was never attacked and so it remains in excellent condition. Located a few miles off the Mosel, Burg Eltz (Stream Castle) is still owned by the Eltz family. Tours are given in both German and English, so it is a very worthwhile castle to visit… if you’re in the area.
For the evening we found accommodations in the town of Beilstein at Hotel Haus Lipmann: Our room overlooked the Mosel and to the left and right we could see as far as the scenery would allow. The Mosel is also known for its capacity to produce wines, and being that we were settled for the night, it was time to sample! Most German wine is not expensive, which is good when there are several varieties to choose from. Our hotel was accompanied by their own restaurant and meals were of the traditional German fare. The breakfast that was included the next morning and taken in the knights’ hall did nothing but leave us with views of outstanding service and hospitality as a reward for our stay.
The next morning we headed off to Cochem; a town whose foremost sight is the large Reichsburg castle. Originally built in the 11th century, it was later destroyed by Napoleons’ army. The castle then was rebuilt in the romantic style and furnished in the 19th century. The town of Cochem has a wonderful green way along the river that locals and tourists both indulge in. The town has many cobbled streets and narrow passageways that entice shoppers to peek into the shops that inhabit them. This is a very child- friendly town and with parks on every corner and ice cream on every street, we almost regretted that we were alone…

Keukenhof Gardens

Holland is a beautiful country- not only are the Dutch known for their wooden shoes, excellent cheese and windmills, but they are famous for their flowers. Being the curious sort that we are, we needed to find out for ourselves what the big deal was about over some tulips….
Situated near Lisse, Netherlands is one of the largest flower parks in the world- Keukenhof Park. Tulips of every shape and size make their début here, and I can see why. In one of the largest and most beautifully manicured gardens I have ever been in, there is a feast for the senses. Not only are there tulips around every bend, but all sorts of daffodils and hyacinths are there to please the eyes as well as the nose. If there’s a beautiful flowering tree or shrub that also smells nice, it’s there too. Thousands of varieties of flowers are planted on the grounds; with thousands more in the many ‘greenhouse’ park buildings.
Being a gardener myself, I am sometimes critical of others gardens. I was awed at this one- maybe it was because we lucked out and the crowds were minimalized, or maybe I had a slight case of spring fever and this trip quenched it, but what ever the reason, I was totally impressed. We did visit a bit prematurely- arriving at the end of March when not all of the flowers have made their way out of the soil makes for a less colorful park, but no less inspiring.
The best time to visit the park is mid-April, however the park is open from mid March though the end of April. There’s a terrific website if you’re interested in seeing more of the park and gardens:
Enjoying such lovely day away from home warranted us a night at a hotel- and for this night we chose to stay in Den Haag which was a short 30 minute drive away. Known as the city of peace and justice, you may have heard of it hosting famous war crime trials. The city its self is located on the Dutch seashore and is home to Queen Beatirx of the Netherlands. The next morning we were able to walk around a bit, see The Peace Palace, and experience why we’d like to come back and lounge on the beach one sunny afternoon. Den Haag is an interesting city (third largest in NL) and it’s worth stopping in and taking a look around.
Finally, we’re on our way home, and we see a sign for the town of Gouda… who amongst you can resist the call of cheese? Not a one of us, so a slight detour was executed and lunch was to be had where some of the most delicious cheese in the world is made. Not all the luck was with us though… being Sunday and also being we are in a part of the world where days off are considered not to be messed with, there was no cheese to be bought… unless you wanted it on your sandwich. So we settled. Cheese on our meal it was to be, and tasty drinks all around. We were disappointed we weren’t able to bring home cheese from Gouda, but we were entertained by the tourists and locals enjoying their Sunday out. Here’s a little more about Gouda: