Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in Photos

Ah, 2012. It seems like a year that flew by faster than ever, but when I look back, it was filled with people and moments that made it a special one. As you would suspect, I ate lots of brunch and made lots of dessert. I attended blogger events that left me feeling inspired and challenged. I traveled to Savannah, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, L.A., London and Paris! I ate some of the best meals of my life. I started two new blog series that I plan to carry into 2013. Jonah and I celebrated five years of marriage in May, and we remembered the life of my sweet grandaddy in July. There were wonderful but always too brief visits from family and friends, and we made it through another year in our beloved New York City, superstorm and all. Thanks to all of you out there for following along. You've helped make it a special year too!

Friday, December 21, 2012

December Photo Project: Festive

We're heading to Savannah tonight to spend Christmas with my family, but before I'm off, it's time to share your festive December photos! I chose the tree at Rockefeller Center and all the chaos that surrounds it. Here are some more festive photos from bloggers and readers:

The photo of her son playing with Christmas lights is from Ann of Oh Beauty.
The sweetness of holiday baking was captured by Lesley Graham.
A reader, Angele, sent me a photo of origami Santas made by her kids. They made 75 of them!
Those happy candy canes are from Anna of Anna with Love.
The classic New York Christmas tree sidewalk set-up was captured by Becca of The Daily Muse.
The photo of her favorite holiday drink, a salted caramel hot chocolate, was taken by Caroline of Coeur de La.
Those yummy-looking Christmas sweets are from Elizabeth of Southern Blossoms.
And the red-themed Christmas tree is from my mama.

So much comfort and sweetness and light in all these images just when we need it. If you want to share one of your festive photos, you can leave a link below.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gingerbread Village

I want to buy real estate in this gingerbread village. Created at the MUJI flagship store in Tokyo, it features 100 gingerbread houses, a commuter train and even tiny, non-edible townspeople. There's a 24-hour live feed of the village, so you can get a feel for the exciting day-to-day life in a gingerbread town.

Also, remember this adorable gingerbread townhouse?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Crafting: Cinnamon Ornaments

I remember making cinnamon ornaments like these in preschool. Actually, Ms. Johnson probably made them for us and we scribbled on them with markers and took all the credit. I had that ornament for years and years and the smell never faded. It was puzzling how something that smelled so much like food and looked so much like food wasn't edible, but I was a naturally obedient child and never tried to take a bite. Since part of the fun of this time of year is getting all wrapped up in nostalgia, I decided to revisit cinnamon ornaments. They make a sweet, little homemade gift to pass around or attach to presents under the tree.

Cinnamon Ornaments
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup ground cinnamon
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 Elmers glue

In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup applesauce using a rubber spatula. Stir in 1/2 cup craft glue. Stir the dough until consistency is smooth and dry. Let stand 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Turn dough onto a cool, flat surface. Flatten with your hands, then flatten with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thick. If dough becomes too dry, spritz with water. If it sticks to rolling pin or work surface, sprinkle with additional cinnamon. Use the cookie cutter of your choice, then use a straw to poke a hole in each ornament for string or ribbon to go through. Transfer ornaments to a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 2 hours, flipping ornaments over once halfway through. Makes about 20 ornaments.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Mocktails and a Giveaway

When it comes to the holidays, there's always a need for plenty of festive beverages, so I've teamed up with Sierra Mist to create two holiday mocktails. Cranberry Splash, their special edition holiday drink, is their familiar lemon-lime soda made with real sugar, but with, you guessed it, a splash of cranberry added. I made two drinks, the first recipe is from Sierra Mist and the second is my own creation.

Winter Berry Splash

4 oz. Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash
2 oz. unsweetened brewed green tea, chilled
2 fresh raspberries
2 basil leaves

In a glass, muddle basil leaves and raspberries, then add to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Pour chilled green tea over ice and shake well. Strain into a glass and top with Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash. Serves one.

Holiday Splash Punch

4 oz. Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash
4 oz. sparkling apple cider
2 oz. pomegranate juice
frozen cranberries, optional

Combine Sierra Mist, sparkling cider and pomegranate juice. Pour into glasses. Add a few frozen cranberries to each drink. They serve as a garnish and help keep the drink chilly. Serves two.

Update: Francine of Beautiful, sweet life is the winner!

Giveaway! Want a chance to create your own Cranberry Splash mocktails and cocktails at home? Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win the Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash entertaining pack pictured below. One winner will be chosen at random at midnight on Wednesday, December 26.

I participated in this sponsored campaign for One2One Network. I received product to facilitate my post and monetary compensation, but all opinions stated are my own.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekend in Photos

I didn't venture far from home this weekend thanks to lots of online shopping, gift wrapping, ornament making and drink concocting. Eggnog and an attempt at roasting chestnuts were even involved. It was a full on Christmas prep fest, and now I feel pretty much ready for the holiday ... almost.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thoughts of the Week

When it comes to gift wrap, I like the idea of keeping things simple.

Coffee meet nutmeg...

and say hi to biscotti while you're at it.

Maybe Jonah and I can actually be in a picture together for once.

Excited for my next skin care purchase and my hair might need a little love too.

Gifts for anyone.

Artificial trees are winning me over.

Just what I needed, more ways to eat cheese.

This makes me want a dollhouse all over again.

Happy Friday! We made it! Any fun weekend plans? Somehow, I've put off all my Christmas to-dos until this weekend. Wish me luck getting things done. Hopefully, I'll have time to snap some festive photos.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

He Sees You When You're Sleeping

I love pajamas. Every night, I look forward to putting on, to quote Nacho Libre, my stretchy pants. There is an occasion when sleepwear seems particularly important though and that's Christmas morning. Here are a few finds to help you look your cutest and feel your coziest while drinking hot cocoa and tearing through presents.

And just a reminder the December Photo Project ends next Friday, so send all your sparkly, cozy, merry photos my way!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Making Vanilla Extract

I'd been wanting to make my own vanilla extract since this time last year, so in November, I got busy and now I'll have a boxful of homemade Christmas gifts. For me, the key to making vanilla extract is buying in bulk. I purchased these bottles, these vanilla beans and a case of affordable vodka. I used Zoe Bakes' very helpful post as a guide.

Basically, all you do is add vanilla beans to vodka and store in a place away from sunlight. It seems like the longer you keep the vanilla beans in the vodka, the more flavorful your extract will be. I kept mine in for about six weeks. It's so gratifying to see the clear vodka turn such a warm, gorgeous shade of brown. I shook the bottles around every few days and would open one up to get a whiff of that amazing vanilla scent. I'm in the process now of dividing up the vanilla extract into 8 oz. bottles and slapping on the labels I created on Pinhole Press, just in time to get them under the tree!


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