All Posts By:

Mindy Trujillo

Finding Christmas Cheer in Christmas Lights

No doubt Covid has changed our Christmas season. I miss cookie baking with friends, going to concerts and plays, and hosting holiday gatherings. While I am mourning all of these traditions, I will admit, slowing down hasn’t been all terrible. I’m not as rushed. I’m not trying to fill all my time with all the great things. We’ve even purchased an advent wreath with candles to thoughtfully remember the purpose of this season. What a beautiful new tradition that we can do at home together.

Another new way we are receiving joy and light this December is by driving around and looking at Christmas lights. We’ve done this in the past, but this year is different. It’s better! My husband found a post on the Captain of the Kids blog listing houses and neighborhoods around the city with amazing light displays. The guide is great because it labels each house: just lights, lights and music, and award winners.

So far we’ve done the Anderson Township/ Mt, Washington area, the Carthage/Wyoming/St. Bernard/Mt. Healthy area, and the Milford/Loveland area. We have fun mapping out our routes and seeing parts of the city we haven’t before.

We just finished planning our routes for Fairfield/Forest Park and Northern Kentucky. Two more epic drives to come. It gets us out of the house and we listen to a variety of Christmas tunes (sometimes we have to take turns controlling the playlist). There is just something about LIGHT this time of year; it’s a powerful reminder of hope.

These drives have truly brought us joy. We talk. We pack snacks. Grab a hot chocolate, or in my case, a peppermint mocha! Honestly, I believe more people are stepping up this year. Doing something. Even if it’s small. Adding a little bit of glow to what feels like, at times, grim days. I see it even in my own neighborhood. People putting a little something outside to sort of show that we are all in this together.

Again, check out this article by Captain of the Kids to plan your routes! It’s really something for the entire family. Plus, it’s free (other than the gas) and it’s covid safe. You know my motto: experiences are more important than things.

If any of you would like to know some of my personal favorites so far, please comment on the post and I will get back to you. Or, if you have a house or neighborhood that you think I should check out, please comment and let me know.

GO THERE (Driving around your city)! TRY THAT (Checking out the Christmas lights)!

Blood Orange Witbier Cake and Taft Brewing Company

Since the start of the pandemic, I haven’t been going out much.  It’s really a bummer because I love to support local businesses: restaurants, bakeries, book shops, art venues, and more. Yes, we get takeout and do our best to support our local favorites. But, honestly, I’ve been cooking and baking more than ever. When I saw Taft Brewing Company post a recipe on Instagram for a cake using their own craft beer, I decided to take it as a challenge.  It’s perfect.  I can bake and support a local business. 

So the recipe is a Blood Orange Witbier Cake. Yep, I googled “Witbier”.  Witbier is a Belgian-style very pale ale, cloudy in appearance, and high in wheat. It’s often spiced with coriander and orange peel. All new to me. We picked up Taft’s Nellie’s Winter Ale at Country Fresh Market on Beechmont Avenue; I knew they’d have it because their Wine and Craft Beer section is stellar. Thankfully, I also found blood oranges there; I could not find them in my regular grocery store.

Here is the recipe posted by Taft:

Typically when I bake, I get all my ingredients out ahead of time and study the recipe. I like to be organized and careful. That doesn’t mean I’m not messy! Those who bake with me find themselves dusted in flour and walking in a trail of sugar.

I did tweak the recipe a tiny bit before I even started because whenever I make sweets with citrus, I always want more zing. I added two teaspoons of orange zest in the cake and I added a full teaspoon of orange zest in the icing. I also bumped up the blood orange juice to a tablespoon and a half. To me, this was perfect. The cake was moist and bright and definitely orange. Yummy.

As I said in the beginning, I’ve never had Witbier cake so I didn’t know what to expect. It’s reminiscent of a pound cake in structure and density.  I love that the flavor is bright; the orange peel, orange juice, and coriander are perfect for this season.  Plus, you can eat this for dessert or breakfast.  I definitely enjoyed it with my morning coffee. Best way to start the day!

Like my mug? Check out my former student’s Etsy shop (Hey, Linnea). Her pottery is wonderful and I’m proud of her success. All about supporting local business here!

My bake might not look beauteous, but it’s delicious and I will definitely be making it again. I shared a few pieces with friends and the reviews were all positive!

GO THERE (Taft Ale House or Taft Brewporium; Country Fresh Market)!  TRY THAT (Baking with craft beer)!