I Will See You Next Year in Texas

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I had planned to write a more elaborate post to end the year, but time is simply missing, so instead of rushing something, I will write what I wanted to write next year now… which actually is just in a couple of days (literally).

I’m flying back to Texas to start the New Year there :-)

Southwest Flight | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

I wish you all a very festive New Year’s Eve and an excellent New Year 2016, filled with happiness, health, and what your heart desires!

See you next year!

Happy New Year 2016 | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC

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U.S. Department of Commerce - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC – December 2015

I’ll spend Christmas in Washington, DC this year, away from home. I have seen plenty of gorgeously – or outrageously – decorated houses in north Virginia, but of course the big attraction is the National Christmas Tree near the White House.

National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Although nice, I must say that the tree paled in comparison to the Rockefeller Center tree and its decorations in NYC, or even the decorations I could see in Texas (I’m pretty sure Austin’s Capitol’s Christmas tree last year was at least the same size).

National Christmas Tree 2015 and White House - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Here are some pictures and a little bit of history behind the tradition.

Ninety-two years ago, the Ellipse, south of the White House, received its first Christmas tree.

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, lighted the National Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve in front of 6,000 visitors. The 48-foot fir tree was decorated with 2,500 red, white, and green electric bulbs.

Every year after that, in times of peace and war, Washington, DC would repeat this tradition.

This year, the National Christmas Tree is decorated in honor of the National Park Service Centennial, in sparkling gold and silvery white, the colors used for milestone celebrations.

National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

National Christmas Tree 2015, with the Washington Monument in the background - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

For the 7th year in a row, it is illuminated by LED lights. There are about 600 LED net lights and icicle lights for a combined 6,000 watts. The lighting has been provided by General Electric for 53 years.

National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The lighting ceremony took place on December 3rd this year, and is available online if you are interested.

There were also model electric trains all around the tree.

Model Electric Trains around the National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Model Electric Trains around the National Christmas Tree 2015 - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The National Christmas Tree is surrounded by smaller Christmas trees decorated with ornaments made by “ordinary Americans, representing every U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia.”

Christmas Trees and Washington Monument - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Here is the Christmas tree for New York, and an ornament.

Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from New York - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Ornament from New York - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

And here is the Christmas tree, along with ornaments, for Texas.

Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from Texas - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Ornaments from Texas - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Ornament from Texas - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Not too far, there was also a Nativity scene, and of course, the White House.

Nativity Scene near the National Christmas Tree - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

White House - Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The trees and decorations were nice but I was a bit disappointed. But I guess after experiencing this and this, I’m a little demanding ;-)

Bookstores of Virginia: Hole in the Wall

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Every time the occasion presents itself to visit a new bookstore, I never miss it. Used bookstores are especially tempting, because yes, books are cheaper, but also because it’s a good way to find old books you’ve never heard of or that you couldn’t find elsewhere.

Today, I’d like to showcase a used bookstore in Virginia that I visited recently, Hole in the Wall.

Hole in the Wall Books
905 West Broad Street
Falls Church, Virginia 22046

Hole in the Wall Books - Falls Church, VA | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The bookstore is a book lover’s dream (at least it was to me!): books are piling up everywhere in this little store. It feels like a treasure quest looking at all the books. From history, to sci-fi, to mystery, comics, business-related, chances are you’ll find a book or two that you’ll be interested in (of course I did find a couple of books!).

There’s parking space behind the store that you can access via the adjacent S Spring St.

Memories of Christmas in the United States

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This will be my fifth Christmas in the United States, as a permanent resident. I spent two of them in New York, and two of them in Austin.

Before I can post some pictures of the fifth one, which will be in Washington, DC, here are some memories from the previous ones in the U.S.

In New York in 2012…

Advent Calendar – December 24th, 2012

In Austin, TX in 2013…

Christmas Trees Galore Along Loop 360

At Zilker Park

In Virginia in 2014…

At the Jefferson hotel in Richmond

In Alexandria, for the Scottish Christmas Walk

In Texas in 2014…

Johnson City’s Christmas Lights

Feel free to click on the links for more pictures. So many beautiful memories!

Is It the Holiday Season Already?

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I can’t believe I let more than 5 months pass (again) without posting anything!

Seasons have come and gone from summer,

Nationals Game - Nationals Park in Washington, DC | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Baseball Game at the Nationals Park in Washington, DC – July 2015

to fall,

Fall colors in North Virginia | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

North Virginia – November 2015

to winter.

Okay, I don’t really have a winter picture because, 1) except for some cold days, it has not look much like winter in DC so far, 2) maybe because this is not winter yet officially!

The celebrations are indicative of the changing seasons though. It seems like only yesterday that I was taking pictures of Halloween and pumpkin decorations,

Pumpkin Galore, North Virginia | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

North Virginia – October 2015

but Christmas is here already!

Nativity scene, North Virginia | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

North Virginia – December 2015

I hope you are all doing well, getting ready for the holiday season. I am not ready for the season, but I guess it would be too much to ask Santa to delay it just a little bit ;-)

So let’s go for it!

What are your plans for the holiday season?

Book Review: “Sous-Chef” by Michael Gibney

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First things first: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Now let’s concentrate on Sous-Chef: 24 Hours On The Line by Michael Gibney.

Sous-Chef: 24 Hours On The Line

They instictively move about one another in the narrowest corners without even the subtlest brushing of hips. There are no burns or cuts, no pans dropped, no spills or messes made. Its practitioners call this performance ‘the dance’.

I have to start by saying that I was pleasantly surprised by how I enjoyed reading Gibney’s book. I expected to like it – or I wouldn’t have entered the giveaway for the book, but I enjoyed it more expected.

Gibney takes us with him for one day in his life as a sous-chef. He shows us through his very good writing every minute of the day of a sous-chef on a busy Friday with a restaurant expected to accommodate 300 guests in just a few hours.

From the moment he enters the restaurant to get everything ready to the following morning, we witness all the meticulous and essential steps that are taken by him, the head chef, the other sous-chef, the cooks, the waiters, and all the staff so that clients can enjoy a perfect evening at the restaurant. We also get a taste of what a busy life his is.

As the rhythm accelerates during the evening to accommodate an increasing number of guests, as well as food critics and journalists, we witness “the dance” and what it takes to perform it.

Anyone interested in professional cooking, being a cook or chef, or simply people who enjoy going out for dinner, should enjoy this book. It is extremely interesting to learn how the meals we order come to life in the kitchen, and what it takes to work as a sous-chef. This read is quick, simple, but well-written, original, and authentic.

Georgetown Cupcake: My Favorite Cupcakes So Far

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After spending a delightful hour at the Georgetown cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers, I stopped by Georgetown Cupcake, which happened to be on my way to and from the cafe.

Georgetown Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Despite the rain, many people were waiting to buy the precious cupcakes, with a line outside in the street.

The store is basically divided into four parts. One has the cupcakes displayed, and this is where you order.

Georgetown Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Georgetown Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Another one has a station for staff to prepare each order. People wait in front of it for their order.

Georgetown Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

In the back, cupcakes are being made and prepared too.

Georgetown Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Georgetown Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

Georgetown Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

There is also two or three tables if you want to sit down to taste your cupcakes immediately.

Georgetown Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

I must say that these cupcakes were really good. I bought six: velvet cake, chocolate ganache, vegan carrot, salted caramel, cookies & cream, and marble brownie and cheesecake.

Georgetown Cupcake - Marble Brownie Cheesecake Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

The cakes were moist, and tasty; the icing was never too sugary. The size — not to small, yet not too big — was perfect.

Georgetown Cupcake - Cookies & Cream Cupcake | Books, Cupcakes, and Cats Chasing Chipmunks

If you are in the area, I highly recommend trying them.

Georgetown Cupcake
3301 M Street NW (corner of 33rd & M)
Washington, DC 20007
http://www.georgetowncupcake.com