Here are some of my favorite things, perfect for sticking in someone’s stocking next weekend…or for treating yourself :)
Blanket Scarf: I love this scarf I received for Christmas last year and I looked forward to getting to use it again this fall and winter. It’s so warm and cozy! I like tying it around my neck to go outside or just wrapping it around my shoulders to keep warm inside. It’d be a great scarf to keep on the back of your desk chair at work. (I think these similar autumn plaid or ivory plaid scarves are also pretty.)Rubber Twist Ties: These reusable twist ties are great for organizing all kinds of cords in your drawer. I also use them with my headphones in my purse. They are lightweight, but very sturdy and do not loose their shape. Simple and effective!Drawstring Shoe Bags: This is such a simple thing, but it’s great to have travel bags for your shoes to keep them from getting the rest of the clothes in your suitcase dirty. It feels a little classier than using plastic bags :)Makeup Eraser: This little towel blew my mind! With just warm water and a few wipes, it entirely removes all stubborn eye makeup. I can’t believe how easy it is! I used to sometimes debate whether or not to put makeup on simply because I didn’t want to wash it off later. That is no longer a question for me! Pack this with you when traveling and you won’t have to worry about getting your host’s towels dirty with makeup after you wash your face. Every so often, throw it in the washing machine, and it’s as clean as new. (Here is a pack of two smaller ones)GapFit Breath Long Sleeve Shirt and Mockneck Pullover: I now have a couple colors in each style and I put one on almost every day! So does my mom! They are SO soft and SO breathable. I can’t say enough how much I love wearing these tops! When I’ve worn them to workout, I’ve had other women comment that they also have one of these shirts and love theirs. (I also have this long sleeve, available here in more colors, and this pullover hoodie.)Cast Iron Skillet Scrubber: If you love to cook with cast iron, or don’t because you’re intimidated by cleaning it, you have to have this scrubber! It makes cleaning your skillet after cooking a breeze, easily removing any build-up without scratching the pan. This is a game-changer for cast iron cooking.Magnetic Car Mount for Phones: Do you find yourself holding your phone while driving and trying to look at navigation directions? I was doing that way too often, so it was time for an iPhone car mount. The thing that I love about this one is that it is magnetic, which makes it so quick and easy to attach your phone when you hop in your car. It comes with a thin magnet, which you can stick in the back of your iPhone case.Card Case: For years, I’ve used this little business card case to hold my driver’s license and credit cards. It makes transferring my “must have” cards to a small clutch quick and simple. I’ve gotten so many compliments at check-outs when I pull this out to pay. Use this to keep your credit cards handy or carry business cards – or both! (I also love this gold or silver card case.)
That’s it for this year! Looking for more stocking stuffer ideas? Here are my suggestions from 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. Happy Gifting!!
I’ve been making these nuts for a few years and every time they come out of the oven, I somehow still feel surprised at how amazing they are!! There’s something about this combination of sweet, salty and just slightly spicy that’s incredibly addicting…you will love them!They come together very quickly by beating an egg white, stirring in the nuts, coating them in a sugar mixture, and baking for 30 minutes. I just ate too many nuts again for the third day in a row and thought to myself: I remember why I can’t make these too often…they are SO UNBELIEVABLY GOOD!A jar of sugar-and-spice nuts is a great hostess gift for a holiday party – just make sure they are hidden away, or they will be gone before the party is over! I generally fill-up a few gift jars right away after I make them so that there aren’t too many leftover for myself to eat…
1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnuts and pecans (about 4-4.5 cups total)
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and line a jelly roll pan (or cookie sheet) with parchment paper.
Mix together sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon so there are no lumps.
Beat the egg white and water until frothy. Add the nuts and stir until they are coated evenly. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the nuts and stir again until evenly coated.
Spread the nuts in a single layer on the parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and break the nuts up as they cool. When completely cool, break up any nuts still sticking together and pour into a bowl. Store in an airtight container.
Slightly tweaked this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.
A few years ago, my family started an annual cocktail competition during the holidays. Each of us finds or creates our own cocktail, which we keep secret until the unveiling on the night of the competition.We each vote by ranking the cocktails based on taste, creativity, and name to pick the winner and reigning champ for the year. Here are the cocktails from last year’s competition:My mom’s “Siren” took home 1st place! She had a whole story ready to introduce her drink: “In Greek Mythology, Sirens were beautiful but dangerous creatures who lured sailors with their lovely voices to their doom on the craggy rocks of the island shores. Sipping the ‘Siren’ is like listening to a beautiful song, fresh and lovely, and as the flavors change ever so slightly with each sip, be careful not to be lured to your doom!”The Siren is a champagne cocktail with different flavored ice cubes, so that while you sip, the melting ice slightly changes the taste of the drink (inspired by this recipe).“Pie of My Eye”: We were all a bit skeptical when we saw Smirnoff vanilla vodka on the bar, but this ended up being very good! Turns out, vanilla vodka mixes well with Fireball, apple juice and a dash of cinnamon sugar for a deliciously warm seasonal drink.“Edmonton Eskimo Warmer”: a stiff dark rum cocktail mixed with homemade pecan simple syrup, a touch of lemon juice, and a blow-torched cinnamon stick. The pecan simple syrup was as delicious as it sounds!“Baconator”: Homemade bacon-infused bourbon mixed with a hint of maple syrup and a few dashes of orange bitters. It was strong and smokey!“Great Annihilater”: This was easily the strongest cocktail, simply a mix of brandy and two different vermouths. Aptly named according to the mixologist “because this one slips down with such smoothly good intentions that it leaves you utterly obtundated…gently pressing you deeper into the cashmere sofa while also slipping on your silk pajamas.”My “White Christmas Russian” sadly did not bring me the win, BUT it was requested by everyone after our Christmas Eve dinner. No one could deny that it is festive and delicious!! Unfortunately, the competition last year was very stiff…I made a traditional White Russian and added cinnamon simple syrup for a seasonal twist.
White Christmas Russian
- 2 oz vodka
- 1 oz Kahlua
- 1 oz Half & Half (or full-fat canned coconut milk for dairy free)
- 1.5 Tablespoons cinnamon simple syrup*
Pour everything into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a glass with a large ice cube. (For presentation points, I rimmed the glasses partly with cinnamon sugar.)
*To make the cinnamon simple syrup: Mix 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a pan, add 2 cinnamon sticks, and heat until a boil. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes. Pour into a glass jar for storing. Make this ahead of time so that it has time to cool (in the fridge/freezer if necessary).
For a description of how we judge the competition or other cocktail ideas, read about our 2014 Cocktail Competition.
I absolutely LOVE weddings! I love the emotions, the personal touches, the speeches, the dancing, all of it! One of my friends recently asked me what my favorite memory is from my wedding day. Tough question! I named off several before I got to my final answer. Here are my top 10 moments that still stand out a year and a half later:
Getting Ready at Home: I look back at the morning of September 27th and remember waking up feeling…completely calm. It was so special and comforting to be hanging around my parents’ kitchen getting our hair and make-up done, sipping the first champagne of the day, and putting my dress on in my childhood bedroom.Father Daughter First Look: Walking out in my wedding dress to meet my dad was so emotional! People I haven’t even met have told me they cried along with me during this part of our wedding trailer.Walking Down the Aisle: What an adrenaline rush! I can still remember the nerves of the doors opening for my entrance. I might not have made it down that aisle without my dad there to hold me up!Ceremony Performance: This ranks near the top! Our best friends, Ashley and Antonio, performed Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are The Best Thing” as a surprise to Andrew and myself. It was incredible and beautiful. I’m known for laugh-crying, but in this moment, I was laugh-cry-dancing!Post Ceremony: Talk about feeling all the emotions! It was so overwhelming to walk back down the aisle married and get a few moments with our bridal party to soak in what just happened. I loved hugging everyone who came to celebrate with us.Popping Champagne: We popped bottles of champagne while taking pictures and the boys had some hysterical misfires…Our First Dance: This is my absolute favorite moment of the entire day! Andrew and I shared our first dance to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” outside during cocktail hour surrounded by our wedding party. It was the most joyful moment and I wish I could relive it a million times over!Maid(s) of Honor Speech: Back when deciding who I wanted to be in my bridal party, I jokingly threw my brother in the ranking for a bridal magazine quiz and he ended up winning position of maid of honor! My sister Emily was my actual MOH, but when she got up to give her speech, she called our brother Mike up and they were hysterical. We laugh to this day because Mike accidentally read Em’s final toast.Dancing to the Band: We had the best band I could’ve dreamed of. The lead singer used to be a back-up for Aretha Franklin and she brought the house down with Etta Jame’s “At Last”. The band also learned a New Orleans song, “Down in the Treme”, for us and called all the ladies on the floor for a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “I Will Survive” full of sass! I could’ve danced all night long.
Stepping Outside during the Reception: Andrew and I snuck outside for a few minutes to soak in everything that had happened that day. It was a really sweet moment to ourselves to reflect on all of the love we felt.
I have 5 weddings in the next 5 months and I couldn’t be more excited! I can’t wait to be there to witness all of their favorite moments!!
In April, I met some of my best girlfriends in Southern California for a killer bachelorette party! We all used to live in LA and spent our weekends together in Manhattan Beach, so we decided to go back to re-live our dreamy California beach memories. Four days with this view couldn’t have been more perfect!We spent the weekend doing all of the fun activities we used to do: yoga at my favorite studio The Green Yogi, biking along the stand, relaxing on the beach, lunching on fresh California cuisine, morning beach walks and taking advantage of the hot tub on our patio!
And of course, we played some fun games! I made this set of Bachelorette Jenga by writing a bachelorette-themed “instruction” on each block. It’s played just like normal Jenga, but when you pick a block, you have to act out or answer whatever is written on it. For example, “Bridesmaid Dress” means describe the worst bridesmaid dress you’ve had to wear or “Fortune Teller: 30 Years” means describe how you picture the bride and groom 30 years from now or “Lap Dance” means perform a 30-second ‘striptease’ for the bride!We also played “Weenie in a Bottle”, which was hilarious! We tied one end of a string around each girls’ waist and the other end to a hot dog to hang about knee height. The object is to be the first one to lower your hot dog down into the bottle (or cup) without using your hands. It was harder than you’d think, especially after a few champagne toasts! The comments everyone made while trying to get their hot dog in the cup were hysterical…“I just can’t keep it steady!”We ordered these adorable tumblers on Etsy, figuring they’d get used during the bachelorette weekend AND when we all fly to the destination beach wedding! Turns out, having our names on the glasses prevented a lot of confusion and dishes for our group of 10. Luckily, we found out margaritas can taste just as good in plastic :)It’s hard to beat those Southern California sunsets…Can’t wait to see all these girls again soon for Abi’s wedding in BELIZE!
I love steel cut oats because they have a chewier texture and nuttier flavor than normal rolled oats. Unfortunately, they aren’t a quick breakfast solution because they take longer to cook. But, that’s the beauty of this overnight option! You can put all the ingredients in your slow cooker Sunday night and wake up Monday morning with a delicious smelling kitchen and oatmeal for the week! On Sunday evenings, I measure out the ingredients and cut up either some bananas or apples.Then, put everything in the slower cooker, add milk and water, and 8 hours later you have perfectly cooked steel cut oats!I’ll scoop some out for that morning and then put the rest in individual sized containers so they are ready to grab and reheat for the next few days.
Slow Cooker Steel-Cut Oatmeal
- 2 cups steel cut oats
- 2-3 sliced bananas or diced apples (you can leave the apple peels on)
- ½ cup ground flaxseed (optional, but SO good for you!)
- ¼ cup brown sugar*
- 2-4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups milk
- 4 cups water
- Optional toppings: chopped walnuts or pecans, raisins, almond butter
Mix together all of the dry ingredients first. Then, add the milk and water and stir. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 7 to 8 hours. Once it’s done, give it a good stir so that it’s evenly mixed. (If you make this during the day, you can stir once or twice part way through, but it’s not necessary.)
Serve with your favorite toppings and store the leftovers in the fridge for up to 1 week. Reheat in the microwave as is or with a splash of milk.
*When making the oatmeal with bananas, I only use 1/4 brown sugar because the bananas will add their own sweetness. With apples, I increase the brown sugar to closer to 1/3 cup. Just depends on how sweet you like your oatmeal. You can always add more when it’s done if it’s not sweet enough.
Maple Cinnamon version: If I do not have fruit on hand, I’ll use the same recipe above, but add a 1/2 cup of maple syrup instead of the brown sugar and add a heaping Tablespoon of cinnamon.
Carrot Cake version (similar to my stove-top recipe for carrot cake oatmeal): Instead of using bananas or apples, add 2-3 grated carrots, ½ cup shredded coconut, and ½ cup raisins (optional). I’ve used a cheese grater for the carrots or pulsed them in my food processer a few times > a much quicker option!
Meet one of my absolute favorite salads!! It has made it’s way to our holiday table the last few years because it’s SO delicious and festive! Between Butternut Squash and Farro Salad, Balsamic Brussels Sprouts and this Kale and Wid Rice Salad, my dream team of holiday sides is complete.How can you go wrong with pomegranate, wild rice, walnuts, feta, and kale?? This is a salad of all of my favorite things! Not a kale fan? Baby kale chopped up real small is much more manageable than normal kale, but you could also sub in arugula if you just don’t like it or can’t find it.It could be a great side for your Christmas dinner with the red and green colors!
Kale and Wild Rice Salad with Pomegranate, Walnuts, and Feta
Serves: 4-5 as a side
- ½-1 cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 cups cooked wild rice
- 4 cups baby kale (can sub regular kale or arugula if you can’t find this)
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- ¼ cup feta, chopped or crumbled
- ½ cup minced shallot (sub onion if you don’t have)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- ½ Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (sub white wine vinegar if you don’t have)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ lemon
Prepare your salad ingredients: chop the kale, deseed the pomegranate, toast the walnuts. If cooking your wild rice, make sure to do it ahead of time so that it has time to cool, in the refrigerator if needed.
Sauté the minced shallot with ½ Tablespoon oil in a small pan for about 5 minutes until soft to reduce the bite of the shallot. Add the shallot and remaining ingredients to a food processor or high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust – add more olive oil if you want a thinner dressing or salt if you need more flavor.
Toss all of the salad ingredients with the dressing just before eating. This is a great salad to chop up ahead and then mix everything together right before serving. It could easily be taken to a party or served at your holiday dinner!
*If you’re intimidated to make your own dressing, try out a simple balsamic vinaigrette.
Adapted from Pinch of Yum