On Gals

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I talked to three people between the ages of 20-35 about their Valentine’s Day plans, and though their relationship statuses were many and varied, they all had one thing in common.  They had nothing at all planned for Valentine’s Day, and each had plans for Galentine’s Day.*  This was my first year celebrating; the idea came from Kim, who had been rewatching Parks and Rec during our unofficial winter break snowcation.  Kim.  Great move.

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We had brunch in Annapolis, sang along to every song that came on the restaurant’s soundtrack (I almost asked if it was a Spotify playlist I could start listening to), and laughed so loud that it made people stare. Also, there were hash browns and chocolate chip pancakes.

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This can’t just be a once a year thing.

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*It should be noted, I also got this awesome card in the mail from a long time bestie, K.Reza.

A Thing at Which I am Terrible [chocolate peppermint cookies]

Merry Christmas, dear readers.  Thanks for cozying up with me tonight.

Last Sunday evening, at 9:00 p.m., I put my feet up on our ottoman, and asked my husband to do something I knew he would dread.  I asked him to make me sit down when I need to sit down.

I am terrible at this.

On Sunday afternoon, I returned from the grocery store, armed with enough supplies to complete my holiday baking.  What I didn’t have was the energy to complete it.  I sat at the kitchen counter and unwrapped Hershey Kisses, I melted butter for blondies, and I creamed, scraped down, and beat all kinds of dough into submission.

chocolate peppermint cookies.

And then it was over and I was exhausted.

But I think my annual cookie bags were a hit with those who received them.  Especially these chocolate peppermint ganache cookies.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to reimmerse myself in The Great British Baking Show, which SCL got me hooked on, and which I cannot believe has only one season available to stream!  Let’s go Netlfix!  Let’s go Amazon Prime!

To make a couple dozen, you will need:

For the cookies:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips

For the ganache:
16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream (Unless you’re exhausted and you forget, and then guess what?  They’ll still turn out fine)
1 cup crushed candy cane pieces

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, sea salt, and cocoa. Set aside.

3. With a mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time. Next, add in vanilla extract and mix until combined.

4. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks or chips. Scoop the dough into rounded tablespoons and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies for 10 minutes, or until cookies are set, but still soft in the center. Don’t overbake. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 3 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely.

5. While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache. Add the chocolate to a large bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it bubbles around the edges. Remove the cream from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 30-45 seconds, then stir until the chocolate melts and a smooth ganache comes together, about 1-2 minutes.

6. Lay out a large sheet of parchment paper or wax paper. Dip the cookies, halfway, into the warm ganache. Place the dipped cookies on paper. Sprinkle with candy cane pieces. Let cookies sit until ganache hardens, about 2 hours. To speed up the process, you can place the cookies in the refrigerator to chill.

December Crafternoon

I maintain that this is not a craft blog.  But man, crafting is fun.  When you have friends who know how to craft.  And who step in and help slash practically make the entire craft for you if you load them up with enough guac and chips and cheese and crackers.  And cookies (they didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but I seriously tweaked Jessica’s recipe to the point of unrecognizableness).

candy sleighs.

We made candy sleighs for various friends, neighbors, and secret Santas, and I’d highly recommend making them if you have a glue gun, and access to chocolate.  The directions are here.

Christmas Fridays

I’m going to pop in on Fridays during December and do some sort of holiday post because I always get the most excited in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Southern Gal:

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  1.  Are you kidding me?  This dress is perfection.
  2. Ali offered me tickets to the National Christmas Tree lighting, and I just couldn’t pull off getting there.  It would have involved sneaking out of work early, after I had just taken a day off, and rushing into the city.  So it didn’t happen.  But when I saw Reese’s Instagram, I was seriously doubting my judgement.
  3. So, some (virtual) retail therapy.  Have you all seen Reese’s line, Draper James?  It’s amazing, and the Hannah Heart holiday collection is everything.  I would die for this sweater.  I spent all the money I’ve ever made the weekend after Thanksgiving, including purchasing almost all of Target, so I’m not looking to drop $175 on a navy candy cane sweatshirt.  But if I was….

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4.  Rereading #3 makes it astoundingly clear I am an unabashed abuser of hyperbole.  But still.  This sweatshirt.

December

december intentions.

Alright, December, let’s do this.

You are not my favorite month, but I like you a lot.

You’re one of the busiest months of the year, and I fear if I don’t take the time to declare a couple of things right now, you’re going to slip away from me, like you always do.  So here are some things I’m thinking about December, and some things I’m vowing to do.

  • First and foremost, I will do nice things for other people.  This shouldn’t be the only time of year we say thank you to our mailmen, Starbucks morning team, Pure Barre managers, neighbors, and friends, but that doesn’t mean we should skimp out now.  I’m planning some small ways to sneak some thank yous into the month, and some bigger ways too.
  • I will take Sundays off.  December is the one month a year I solemnly swear to go to church every single week, because CHRISTMAS CAROLS, and Advent.  And after church every week, I will come home and do things like watch Netflix, or bake, or read and just all around rest on my laurels, because if the fall taught me anything, it’s that I know how to pack my calendar way too much and exhaust myself.  December shouldn’t feel like that.
  • I will mail cards to everyone I know and love, and hang the cards I get from them on my wall with washi tape.  (The first one is already up, dear readers, when can I expect yours?)
  • I will start an Advent calendar tradition.  Grandma Glass of Milk used to send one to me and Brother Bear each December, and I always looked forward to getting mine in the mail.  This one came from Target, and I spent an hour the other night filling it with something my husband and I can do each day to prepare for Christmas.
  • I will, of course, keep Larry the Elf, moving around the shelves of our house.  We have a whole new space filled with endless possibilities.  Ali has already sent me some inspiration for this year.  If you have any great ideas, dear readers, do keep me posted.  Follow me on Instagram to see where he hides this year.
  • And, finally, and this is where I might shock you, I will not buy gifts.  My family did away with gifts many years ago when we realized a) we were all adults, who b) had everything we needed.  I can’t tell you how much less stress there is during the holidays when you can focus on what matters, and not lean on gifts to prove affection.  I’m sorry if I sound like a Scrooge.  I dare you to try it.

 

Updates, The Monday after Thanksgiving

Dear readers, I don’t even know how to begin updating you on life right now.  First of all, Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope yours was wonderful, filled with family and friends and pie.  If you’re here, reading this blog, right now, I’m thankful for you.  Yes, even though Thanksgiving is over, there’s always time to be thankful.

andre, the turkey.

My Thanksgiving was…..mostly fine? I’m working on figuring out how much food to cook at Thanksgiving.  My general rule of having people over is you can never have enough food. But our Thanksgiving required an Olympic-like matrix of food choices to satisfy a couple of vegetarians, a vegan, and of course, everyone’s personal preferences, and so I think I took, “You can never have enough food” to another leftover.  Our fridge will be full for the rest of my life.  Grandma Glass of Milk instilled in all of us a deep love of mashed potatoes, but other than that, I don’t think there is one food on the table that everyone eats.  Some of us like green bean casserole, while others prefer sweet potatoes, and still others like stuffing.  Do you know how much leftover stuffing I have, dear readers?  It’s ridiculous.  Who doesn’t eat stuffing?  Apparently the majority of my 12 guests.  On the plus side, I finally found a homemade version that tastes like my beloved Pepperidge Farm stuffing, so I’m happy in that department.

full plate.

And I made so much dessert that I forgot to put one of my options on the table.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t pie.  We had 5 of those, and some were barely touched.  I think Wooden Nickels and I are the only ones who eat pumpkin pie.  But you can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.  Can you?

apple pie.

Our menu was:

Appetizers*

  • Hummus, made from scratch by my sister-in-law
  • Sausage, spinach, and stuffing balls (they were gross, recipe not coming here)
  • Mushroom croustades (going down in history as the best appetizer ever, and recipe coming soon)

The Main Event

Dessert:

  • Vegan gingerbread, made by Wooden Nickels
  • Vegan pumpkin banana bars, made by Wooden Nickels
  • Double crust apple pie, made by some kind person who donated it to my workplace on Pie Day, which is my favorite day of the year.
  • Cranberry apricot pie, also donated, similar recipe here
  • Vanilla bourbon pumpkin pie
  • Williams Sonoma pecan tart (which my mother and sister-in-law swear is the best ever, but I don’t eat pecan pie, so I wouldn’t know)
  • Chocolate chip pie (recipe coming soon)
  • My Aunt Leigh’s blondies (which I had to make, since she couldn’t join us this year)
  • Rocky road fudge (recipe coming soon)

*I know there are those of you who believe Thanksgiving is no place for appetizers, because they just get in the way of the main course.  But we’ve already gone over my stance on how much food is too much, especially on holidays.

 

On Pen Pals [pumpkin cheescake dip]

The (Not So) New Girl was kind enough to put me in touch with one of her cousins when she recognized us as cooking twins over a year ago.  And now we trade emails with good recipes and good books.

This one came with the promise that it’s crack.  Seriously.

pumpkin cheesecake dip.

That promise was not wrong.

I am not one to go crazy over pumpkin recipes, but there is something special about this one.  Though it’s pumpkin cheesecake dip, it’s not heavy.  I served it at Halloween, and no one could get enough of it.  The recipe makes TONS, so there’s another half of the dip in the freezer for Thanksgiving.

To make a ton, you will need:

  • 1 lb. cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 C sugar
  • 1 C pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 8 oz. Cool Whip

Beat cream cheese and sugar together in a mixer till completely smooth.  Add pumpkin, salt, vanilla, and spice.  Fold Cool Whip into dip slowly.  Serve cold, with anything you can dream up for dipping (we used apple slices and pretzels).

This is Not a Craft Blog

crafternoon pumpkins.

But La Moneda did play host to some craftivities the other night.  Two work friends came over to help decorate the house for CV(D)’s baby shower.  I made the favors.  That took absolutely no craftiness at all. These pumpkins, on the other hand, are a different story entirely.  I tried to amass the supplies one needs to make glitter pumpkins, but failed to recognize the difference between Martha Stewart glitter, and Martha Stewart glitter paint.  Oops.  Luckily, my friend Kim made lemonade out of lemons with the purple paint, and our other friend Christine had some orange glitter up her sleeve.  The results of Kim’s work are these beauties you see here.  I feel guilty that they’re all gracing my mantel, but they’re gorgeous and festive, and I’m not giving them back.

I’m also debating dabbling in decoupage in the name of confetti pumpkins for the front stoop, but I think I gave my circle punches away when we moved, and I don’t know that I’d have the patience to cut this many circles out of tissue.  Stay tuned, dear readers.

75 Parties

This weekend, I served lunch to 70 people (with a healthy does of help from caterers and friends).  And it reminded me just how much I miss serving food to other people.  It is my love language.
entertaining.

When we get our house up and running, it will come complete with an open invitation to everyone we love once a week.  My intention for this house is that it feels inviting to anyone who crosses its threshold.  Which means I’ve spent the months since I saw this dreaming about what those weekly gatherings will look like.  Of course, if they are weekly, they’ll likely be pretty low-key, since it will be another 6 days before we up and do everything all over again.  That’s kind of the point.  But I’ve had a lot of time to dream, and come up with a laundry list of entertaining possibilities.  I want to have some of these parties yesterday (oh, Oscar party, you have always eluded me).  I want to have some of these parties never (what, exactly, is a hoedown?).  But it’s fun to dream, and if we’re ever stuck for ideas for our weekly gathering, one of these might help us out.  Links are to anything I thought might help you plan a fete of your own.

Below are 75 ideas for entertaining.  But tell me what I left out, dear readers.  Do you have any fun party traditions?

superbowl//oscars//derby//cinco de mayo//meatballs and spaghetti//brunch//hot cocoa//chili//pulled pork//tacos//crostini//wine tasting//friendsgiving//ugly sweaters//barbecue//pajama//birthdays//half birthday//pizza//ice cream and a movie//potluck//soup//picnic//new year’s eve//cocktails//fondue//s’mores//tapas//beer tasting//game night//waffle bar//chocolate//halloween//mother’s day//father’s day//back to school//snow day//block party//easter egg hunt//clambake//hoedown//rooftop//sock hop//toga//mardi gras//cookie swap//masquerade//white//garden//fourth of july//labor day//memorial day//pool//eighties//tea//luau//bonfire//new year’s day//articles club//chinese food on christmas//state dinner//desserts//gingerbread houses//Nintendo//favorite things//comfort food//pinterest//trivia night//baked potato bar//casino night//un-birthday//spa day//cupcake decorating//mac and cheese//twenties//karaoke

p.s.  If you click on no other link, click on the one for trivia night.  🙂

12 Days of Christmas (Movies)

Dear readers, do you know the extensive, and yet, non-exhaustive, research I’ve been knee deep in for the past two weeks?  If you follow me on Twitter, you might.  Having made it to December 7 with no Elf on the Shelf hidden, no Christmas cards written, nor a single stocking hung by the chimney with care, I realized I needed to get in the Christmas spirit.  What better way than through the scads of cheesy movies at my fingertips on Netflix?  If you’re not familiar with this intensely underrated genre, look here for a quick refresher.  I watched one per night, each night, for 12 nights.  It was a tiresome, and thankless job, dear readers, but someone had to do it.  And now, in a wordy, some might say rambling, post, I present to you my definitive (at least until next year) list of made for TV Christmas movies.

1.  12 Dates of Christmas – In which Zack Morris and Amy Smart (Kate) are set up on a blind date.  Who is Amy Smart?  She seems like someone I should know, but a lot of IMDB-ing later, in fact, I do not.  Surely she was a young guest star on Full House, Step by Step, Boy Meets World, or the like?  I digress.  Kate is all set to go on a blind date with Zack in the evening.  On her way there, she is knocked flat on her back in the middle of a department store, and spritzed back to life by a friendly cosmetics saleslady.  Thank goodness.  Kate continues to go about her day, completely botching the date, among other things, and ends up at home in her childhood bed at her dad’s house.  And when the clock strikes midnight, a ruby red eye of a partridge-in-a-pear-tree glows and the clock winds back to yesterday.  x12.  Until she gets the day exactly right.  Side note: Does anyone remember this made for TV movie?  Talk about a classic.  By the end of the flick, everyone has come together, and Zack and Amy have the fighting chance they deserve.

2.  A Christmas Kiss – Remember when Dan makes out with that teacher in season 2 of Gossip Girl?  She is now called Wendy, and she gallivants around town looking like this:

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Wendy is off to girls night, when she finds herself in an elevator with Adam, who is no doubt the man of her dreams.  In the time it takes them to ride up a couple of floors, they’ve already made out.  Wendy promptly dashes off the elevator, no doubt so she can run and confess to her friends that she has just had, “The type of kiss that, years from now when I am suffering from dementia and drooling in my jell-o – I will be thinking about that kiss.”  Yes, dear readers, that type of kiss kiss.  Wendy blurts out that she hasn’t given him her name, number, or Twitter handle, preferring instead to leave their next encounter to fate.  Don’t worry guys, fate is close at hand here.  In fact, we quickly learn that Adam is none other than Wendy’s bitchy boss’s boyfriend.  And, surprise, he is also their new client.  They are to make decorating his house for Christmas their number one priority, and Wendy must commence spending what will no doubt feel like every waking hour with him.  They’ll quote Shakespeare at each other, look through Wendy’s goodie basket, and we’ll try to determine whether Adam is feeling knots or butterflies in his stomach over her.  Thank goodness for his older gentleman friend who can spell it out for him.  They proceed to spend the next hour of the movie together, realizing their true love.  We have to get rid of the current girlfriend, of course, and Wendy’s friends gather to support her with encouragement like, “You rock, she sucks.”  You go, Wendy.

3.  The Mistle-tones! – Exclamation point not optional!  In this ABC Family gem, Tia or Tamera follows her heart, and the advice of a light-up sign at the mall, and competes against the Snow-belles, a female (seemingly 40+) group who has commandeered the local mall’s Christmas Eve performance circuit for years.

The Mistle-Tones premieres Sunday, December 9 at 8/7c on ABC Family! Stars Tia Mowry & Tori Spelling! Part of ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas!
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It might be someone’s idea of what happens when the Barden Bellas alumni group gets together at the holidays.  I have no idea what makes a Christmas movie likeable or not, but this one, with lines like, “Is someone going to tell me why I’m caroling in the crapper?” misses the mark.  It needs a serious hit of Lea Michele and Mr. Schu.

4.  Chalet Girl – If The Mistle-tones! was a mild flop, Chalet Girl was a complete disaster, save for some jokes that sound better with British accents + Chuck Bass.  Not strictly a Christmas flick, this one is more winter-themed.  Chuck plays a loaded British gentleman, thus distinguishing him from his infamous role on Gossip Girl.  But instead of finding British Blair Waldorf, he falls for the chalet girl, who has taken a job to put food on the table for herself and her ailing father.  You can figure out what happens in the ensuing hour and a half, but I will leave you with my favorite line:

5. Meet Me in St. Louis – This is most certainly not made-for-TV fare, but it is a Christmas movie that I watched on one of the days.  It is such a classic, and I can’t watch Judy Garland sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” without ugly crying.  Here:

6.  Happy Christmas – That Anna Kendrick flick Netflix has been trying to get you to watch.  I got a whopping 11 minutes into it before I could no longer stomach Lena Dunham, and turned it off.  Which is great because I had skipped a day when I had plans and couldn’t fit a movie in, and we’ll just count this one for that day.  Bam!  Caught up on my Christmas movies.

7. Holiday in Handcuffs – After a couple of duds, I got back on track with Holiday in Handcuffs.  Clarissa grew up, and she turned into Trudie Chandler, outfits and all.

[UL/180U/HuF] Holiday in Handcuffs (2007) DVDRip (722MB) - Snapshot 1
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Trudie is a mess, and she’s trying to get her life in order.  And if that means kidnapping Mario Lopez so he can pose as her boyfriend for Christmas, then so be it.  Trudie has to hurriedly explain to her family that Mario may try to escape, but that’s just what he does when he’s nervous.  She wins him over slowly, with her charm and always-unique style.

8.  Christmas Cupid – I confess that this was the best movie I barely watched.  I checked out of Chalet Girl early on because I could tell how terrible it was.  Christmas Cupid wasn’t terrible, but I checked out of this one because I had Christmas cards that weren’t going to address themselves.  I spent most of this movie looking up addresses, and putting stamps on envelopes.  In the meantime, the ghost of one of the Pretty Little Liars (no, not A) taught Christina Milian a thing or two about how not to be a jerk.

9.  Christmas Bounty – The one that proved there is no possible way to predict when you’ll happen upon an amazing Christmas movie, but you can always tell within the first 3 minutes.  The one that brought me back around after so many “meh” reviews.  Christmas Bounty takes place in an (if possible) over-exaggerated Jersey suburb, and features, guess what? Bounty hunters!  And The Miz!  Like, Real World to WWE Miz.

francia raisa christmas bounty pics 04
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I managed to follow the plot just fine, considering I am someone without a true grasp on what the deal with bounty hunters is.  Anyway, some girl has to reunite with her family and The Miz to go on just one more hunt.  And she solves the case, in true Legally Blonde fashion, by figuring out when a wedding is taking place based on when the huntee had her last spray tan.  And now that I think about awesome movies of the early 2000s, the final showdown is almost Miss Congeniality-esque in its upset of a giant ceremony.  Aside from taking place in December, I’m not sure how this movie relates to Christmas, but I am sure it’s a great way to teach girls to be who they really are, especially if that’s a Jersey-Trash bounty hunter.

10.  Snowglobe – It’s Enchanted 2.0, Christmas Edition, complete with hot dog eating on a date in New York, and graciously accepting kindness from a homeless man.  And it’s okay that there’s now “How Do You Know” because this movie has Britney Spears’ “Santa Can You Hear Me?” and Hanson’s “What Christmas Means to Me.”  Now would be a good time to pause and reflect on the soundtracks these made for TV Christmas movies feature.  Quite simply, they are unparalleled.  But back to the movie.


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Christina Milian is dying to get away from her family over Christmas so she shakes up a snow globe and ends up there.  It’s the perfect world, and she finds the perfect (boy)friend in Douglas.  They exchange earmuffs and scarves, and go ice skating together.  But perfect can’t last forever, and Christina has to figure out the kind of life she wants to live.  This one was a surprising winner.
11.  Yes, Virginia – So here is my Day 11 confession:  I started watching “Snow,” but got sidetracked.  And “Snow” is 90 minutes, and that’s a long time when you’ve been watching 90 minute Christmas movies for 10 straight(ish) days.  So I saw that “Yes, Virginia” was 26 minutes, and it’s obviously based on this heartwarming story, and it was just right.
12.  Dear Santa – I Snapped a screenshot of my Netflix homepage to one of my favorite 11 year olds, and she picked my last movie.  (Side note – what if you tried to read that sentence in 1995?)  She picked “Dear Santa,” and thus, I closed out my 12 days of holiday movies.  It’s a classic girl whose mom died writes a letter asking Santa for a mom, and lo and behold, she gets one by the end.  Whoops.  Spoiler alert.
Cheers to relaxing with some Netflix classics in the next few days, dear readers. xox