My 3 Favorite Holiday Drinks

I love the change of seasons. Mind you I understand I am saying this at the beginning of the winter, and it so far as only lightly snowed twice. I guess we can revisit this in a few months when I am two feet under snow, can’t leave my house, and haven’t seen the sun in months. But for right now: I love the change of seasons.

One of my favorite parts of the beginning of each season is reintroducing myself to the season flavors that I haven’t had in the past nine months. Fresh fruits and veggies have always been a big part of the way I eat, cook, and drink thanks to my super all-natural mother who loves herself a farmers market. This year I have a lot of get togethers that I am hosting and attending and the Italian in me needs to bring something new to each one.

Today I put together my three favorite winter drinks that I am sure you will love. A Blackberry Whiskey Ginger, a Christmas Cran-Vodka, and a Hot Toddy for those snow days that you need a little pick me up.

Blackberry Whiskey Ginger


Last summer I became obsessed with Irish Mules. I love me some whiskey and ginger, but I just can’t do ginger beer anymore. Most of them are just too sweet for me and that means instant head ache. Here I made homemade rosemary simple syrup, used ginger ale and fresh blackberries and the drink is just so much fresher and lighter.

Rosemary Simple Syrup
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
5 springs of fresh rosemary

Place everything in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Let boil for one minute while constantly whisking to ensure all of the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Remove rosemary and strain into a glass container. Allow to cool to room temperature and chill.

6 blackberries to muddle, 4 blackberries for garnish
ice
1 ½ oz Paddy Irish Whiskey
1 oz rosemary simple syrup
½ lime, juiced
6 oz Seagram’s ginger ale

1. Muddle six blackberries into the bottom of a copper cup or glass.
2. Fill cup halfway with ice.
3. Add Paddy’s Irish Whiskey, rosemary simple syrup.
4. Squeeze in juice from half of a lime.
5. Fill Seagram’s ginger ale to the top of cup.
6. Lightly stir with cocktail spoon, top with blackberry garnish.

Christmas Cran-Vodka


I’m not going to lie, I don’t enjoy cranberry or vodka too much but when you are hosting a dinner or a party, you got to have what the people want and for most people, you can’t really go wrong with a cran-vodka. This is just a little twist on a college cran-vodka.

Ice
1 ½ oz vodka
2 oz cranberry juice
Seagram’s ginger ale
½ lime, juiced
Cranberries for garnish

1. Fill 6 oz glass with a few ice cubes.
2. Add vodka and cranberry juice over ice.
3. Fill cup with ginger ale.
4. Mix lightly with cocktail spoon and top with juice from half a lime.
5. Top with cranberries and a lime sphere.

Hot Toddy


For as long as I can remember, as soon as anyone in my house started feeling sick, my mom would make you a hot toddy. It didn’t matter how old you were, you were having some tea with a shot of whiskey in it. Most cultures have some of this. While I was living in Los Angeles a lot of my friends would say their parents would give them a shot a tequilla when they started not feeling well. It’s a very old school way of self-medicating, (wow that sounds terrible) but I still make myself a hot toddy as soon as I feel a cold coming on.

English breakfast tea
1 oz whiskey or scotch
1 tsp local honey
Lemon wedge
Cinnamon stick

1. Steep English breakfast tea 5 minutes.
2. Add one ounce whiskey or scotch and 1-2 tsp of local honey.
3. Squeeze in one lemon wedge.
4. Top with cinnamon or add in a cinnamon stick.

 

Friday Five: Christmas Traditions

I’ve been talking a lot about Christmas this year. Here, here, and all of those gift guides. But I’m still not Christmased out yet.

With just over a week until Christmas, I’ve been making sure I’ve checked off all of my holiday must dos before December 25. This year I really made it a point to take in every moment of the holiday season. This is the first Christmas I’ve spent with my family since 2010. This is also the first holiday I’ve been out of the retail world since 2008. It’s been a good past few months to just sit back and take in everything around me.

I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite holiday traditions I’ve been able to enjoy this season.

Holiday Cookie Swap

Next week my girlfriends and I are getting together not to swap gifts, but instead something everyone could enjoy: cookies. Now I suck at baking, so my boozy hot cocoa bar will be my contribution to the group. More about that next week on the blog, but trust me, I was doing everyone a favor by not baking. (Although I can make a mean biscotti, but that’s about where it ends.) This was just such a great way for all of us to get together, not spend a ton of money on gifts or dinner, and relax.

Embrace New York City during its prime

The holidays are one of my favorite times of year to visit the city. It’s festive and busy and oh so cliché. Give me all of the decorations, big cozy jackets, hats, gloves, warmed street nuts, and a vat of hot cocoa while strolling the streets of Manhattan. This year I was able to see the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular for the first time and it made my Christmas in the city experience that much better.

Take a trip

If you follow me on Instagram, you know a few weeks ago I went up to Boston. Being able to have a quick getaway thrown in during the busy holiday season was perfect. And going to a city like Boston, we were able to stay in the holiday spirit. A full post about our weekend in Boston will be up in the new year, but you can check out some of my past holiday getaways to Big Bear, Scottsdale, and California’s Central Coast.

Have a movie night

The holidays can be exhausting, stressful and crazy juggling the added holiday parties, dinners, and shows on top of your normal daily schedule. Take some time for yourself with a glass of wine and take out, turn off your phone and watch some o your favorite holiday movies. I make sure to watch Elf and the Holiday at least once every December but in the past few years I have really added to my Christmas movie favorites.

Take a drive to look at Christmas lights

Most cities have “that house.” In Los Angeles Christmas lights were at a new level. With so many people in the film and television industry, they had so many connections to lights and projections that aren’t really on the market. Each Christmas we made it a tradition to stroll Candy Cane Lane in off of Oxnard St in Woodland Hills, CA. Here you can see a group of about four streets that come together and put up elaborate Christmas decorations. You may have to sit through an insane amount of traffic to see the all of the houses, but it is absolutely worth it.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?? Post your answers below!

 

Things to do in New York City During the Holidays

I caught the Christmas bug a little earlier than normal this year. I think it was the lack of overnight shifts and finally being able to celebrate the holidays with my family that really got me excited to start celebrating.

Back in November, my sister and I took our mom to Radio City to see the Rockettes Christmas show. We spent the afternoon strolling Fifth Ave, checking out the holiday windows that were already on display. We were there the weekend that the Christmas tree got to New York from Pennsylvania this year and there were a ton of workers stringing lights and hanging ornaments getting ready for the big reveal.

There is absolutely nothing like New York City during the holidays and it has always given me all sorts of feels. I put together some of my favorite things to do in the city to get in the holiday spirit.

Skate in the middle of the city
There are amazing pop up skating rinks all around the city, and while the Rink at Rockefeller Center is in place all year, the best time to skate under the Rock is in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the most famous Christmas Tree in the world is looking down upon you. If you don’t want to skate in a not so packed, but still very packed and popular area, you can twirl on the ice at the Winter Village at Bryant Park, two rinks in Central Park and a few others scattered outside of midtown.

Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
This is one of my favorite traditions. Even when I was in living in Los Angeles, I always made it a point to visit the Gove or Americana at Christmas to see the huge trees and all of the decorations. Even just driving by the beautiful decorations at the Citadel outlets along the 5 Freeway could put anyone in the holiday spirit. But nothing compares to Rockefeller Center. There’s something about this beautiful piece of nature being completely surrounded by cement and skyscrapers. It’s a little piece of Christmas in the city.

Winter Village at Bryant Park
I may have talked about how much I want to visit European Christmas Markets one day. It’s pretty high up on my bucket list. And while we may not have as magical markets here in the US, Bryant Park’s Winter Wonderland is pretty high up there. You can shop artisan goods and food, eat at one of the restaurants over looking the park or skate on the rink.

Stroll 5th Ave and window shop
One of my earliest memories of going into New York City is walking down 5th Ave. and being in awe of how intricate the windows were. (Ironic I was a merchant for 8 years.) Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman are some of the most famous, but not all on 5th Ave. and you may have to venture out a block or two but they are defiantly worth it. When I went to the city in mid-November the famous Saks windows weren’t revealed yet – yes there’s a whole big to do around the windows being revealed – but last week when I went into the city I was able to visit Lord and Taylor’s windows and they were all the heart eyes!

Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
Every Thanksgiving I watch the Rockettes in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade but this was the first year that I was able to see these amazing ladies perform their most popular show of the year. It was beautiful. I didn’t realize how intricate the entire show was, with a few surprised guests at the end.

This year seeing the Rockettes was a new Christmas tradition but Friday I am going to be talking about my favorite holiday traditions.

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Holiday Tablescape

Through out most of the year I am pretty minimalistic in my home décor. I like whites, and greys, and pretty much anything neutral just like my clothing. If you’re lucky, I may throw some gold in there, but that’s the closest to a color you’re going to get out of me. (Okay, last spring I threw in peach, call me crazy.) My sister says I’m sterile. She’s a nurse and white reminders her of a hospital, and for me, color is complete chaos. But for me, mid-September through January 1 I want the holidays to be plastered throughout my home.

Give me reds, golds, sparkles, ribbons, bows and all of the holiday goodness.

This year my sister and I are hosting our family of 45 cousins, aunts, uncles, and kiddos on Christmas Eve so I feel like I’ve been on Christmas prep since early October. While our table for 45 is going to be a little simpler than this, I set up this table for a much more intimate dinner last week.

Layers and fabrics

Different textures is the easiest way to add dimension and holiday spirit to your table. I started with a gold table cloth and layered on these placemats that have a little sparkle. I have a small addiction to napkins – Beverage napkins are my favorite but they’re more for cocktail hour. These cotton napkins from Home Goods are super cute and casual which is perfect for a small group of close friends or everyday dinner.

Add a little sparkle

The placemats already had a little sparkle but I love me some gold during the holidays. And these Nicole Miller gold bow napkin rings from Home Goods jumped out at me. (Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader.) Also these can be used all year round for girls nights or other casual dinner parties. Change up the napkin and you have a new, cute piece to use for the rest of the year.

Bring the outdoors inside

While most of the plants are heading into hibernation here in New England, my mom’s holly bush is #goals right now. So I snuck over to her house and pulled off a few branches. While I was there I grabbed a few pine cones and added them to the table top. The easiest way to make your table feel super seasonal. In the summer, go outside, clip some flowers and stick them in a vase. Centerpiece done!

Keep it low

One thing I hate while at dinner is having to lean over to talk to the person sitting across from you. Especially in an intimate setting, keep your center piece low so all of your guests can talk across the table from each other. When you are at someone’s home, especially for a smaller, more intimate meal, the lower centerpiece the better. It encourages conversation. Wine helps also.