Important Holiday Check List

Through all the holiday “hustle and bustle” (which may include a few unfortunate shattered ornaments) I always make sure to do a few things.

Here is my Stay Sane Holiday Check List:

☐ Put on your slipper socks – the ones with the sticky bottoms

☐ Watch Love Actually

☐ Check doorstep for holiday shipment from Crate and Barrel

☐ Smell the pine (unless you opted for a fake tree*)

☐ Indulge in a handful of fancy dark chocolate covered almonds, like Amie’s of The Healthy Apple (or, a flute of bubbly and light Prosecco**)

☐ Connect with your spirituality, wherever you find it

☐ Make a wish/say a prayer for someone special

☐ Dress up (break out the bow ties and Carrie Bradshaw red lips)

☐ Order the After-Dinner Coffee Cocktail

☐ Toss three ugly ornaments (hey, you can use that extra storage space)

☐ Reminisce about past holiday blunders and successes

☐ Pamper yourself (you only get the excuse for spa treatments so often; guys – I am talking to you, too)

☐ Cook a colorful meal, like pizza with red sauce, spinach greens and fresh mozzarella (you could always order it in, too – wink)

☐ Listen to at least one Alvin and The Chipmunks holiday song

☐ Burn a batch of cookies (there is plenty more dough)

☐ Get at least 8 hours of sleep

☐ And don’t forget to shower (the dishes can wait)

☐ Do all things with a loving touch

☐ Give as much as you can to the local food pantry

☐ Discover wire ribbon. Trust us. (Family tip.)

☐ Call your grandparents, if you are fortunate enough to have them

☐ Arrive on time with a semi-full stomach and a hostess gift (you never know what the party food is going to be like)

☐ Kiss under the mistletoe. A lot. If you don’t have anyone to kiss, give yourself a hug. You deserve it.

☐ Pay the bills (you are still responsible for your rent, even though you’ve spent it all already)

☐ Find new places in your downtown community where you can celebrate and shop (I buy #MadeInUSA whenever possible)

☐ Visit with friends and family, whether nearby or by Skype

☐ Forgive someone, even if it’s just in your head

☐ Did I mention, watch Love Actually?

*Long story short, Kevin and I decided not to brave the Christmas tree bugs this year. We will never again take scented candles for granted.

**La Marca is one of our favorite, which is also completely affordable. (Note: Bottle is best when shared.)

What is your #1 Holiday Stay Sane Tip?

Baking Frosted Sugar Cookies for Christmas with Tracey Rapisardi

As the year closes, Tracey Rapisardi of Tracey Rapisardi Style and I fit in one last collaboration for you. We hope you enjoy it!

It was a sweet treat to work with such a talent in styling and photography (not to mention Interior Design). The real gift was to sit and spend time with Tracey, warm up with a steaming cup of sweetened green tea, and to create this fanciful gathering which we would then come to share with you.

cookies and ingredients

Another special gift this season came to me in my very own kitchen. I have actually, finally, figured out how to mix Royal Icing – the kind that hardens – from scratch. You know…the kind you see on snowmen cookies at Starbucks or at the cash wrap in Whole Foods around holiday time. If you know me, you probably know I have been experimenting with this tasty confection for some time (remember my Failure Happens post?)

Icing Decorates Cookies

Once I figured out the recipe, I admittedly went a little overboard. I bought a junk drawer load of pastry bag tips, used for decorating and writing with icing, and a few extra sets of couplers, which are used to secure the tip of choice to a pastry bag. Using all the tools I picked up, I created white, pink, green and blue shades in both outlining and flooding consistencies. Then I set up a Decor Station, which included icing, sugars, sprinkles, nonpareils, pearls, candy snowflakes and more, each in their own ramekin.

Icing on Sugar Cookies

Lots of fun work and experimentation led to a strong sense of accomplishment. (My newfound success was inspired by a video tutorial, Royal Icing Wet on Wet Technique, by Simply Sweets by Honeybee. Her steady hand and the quick, easy strokes she takes with the icing is a true art.)

Green Sugar Decoration

While the icing was still wet, sanding sugars in different colors and sizes are sprinkled over top. Immediately shake off any excess and place your decorated cookie on a flat surface to dry.

Letters Gift Tags and Star Sugar Cookies

Trick: Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper before using sanding sugars or embellishments. Place a cooling rack on top and sprinkle away. You can then funnel that special fallen sugar back into the jar for later use. Happy baker, padded wallet for more ingredients.

Delicate Cookies with Royal Icing

I had a blast creating different patterns and textures on tag cookies, letters, stars and snowflakes. The possibilities are endless!

Sugar Cookie Success

This snowflake is my favorite because of the warm and fuzzy, wintery feelings it evokes.

Royal Icing and Decorated Cookies

Glam Your Sugar Cookies

Don’t you just love Tracey’s use of colors and patterns? I bet those lollipops are as much of a delight to taste as they are to look at.

Area to Decorate Cookies

McLean Sugar Cookies

It is snowing in sunny Florida! Is it snowing where you live, too? 🙂

Decorated Sugar Cookies

The holiday tunes on the radio turned my afternoon with Tracey into a real party. Wait until you see what she did with the decorated cookies, and don’t forget to sign up for email updates on her blog!

Whether they arrive via visits with close friends, within personal achievements of any size, or under your tree, I hope you receive the gifts you have been wishing for this Christmas.

Gift Ideas for Guys

1. For the go-go-go guy who has everything, warm his mornings with an eco cup from the KeepCup Store. They are customizable, so you can use his favorite colors.

2. The Brawny Men out there will get a kick out of this knit cap and face warmer from Fab.com, which comes with a bendable mustache!

3. Book a hotel one short hour away, gas up the guzzler and go have some alone time!

4. If your beaux is all business, Ten Over 6 has a leather card holder that will be the gift De LaVie.

KimpoCard_BlackPearl_1024x10245. Hidden hint gift from one of my favorite boutiques:

Man: “This smells nice.”

Man 2/Woman: “Isn’t that great, honey?! I thought you could throw it in your gym bag.”

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6. I’m sorry (clear throat), what was that? Affordable cashmere?! Thanks UNIQLO.

7. Nothing says holiday more than a festively plaid scarf. This one from Sid Mashburn is truly “A fresh interpretation of old standards.” (For the slightly obsessed, it’s cashmere, too.)

8. For the traveling man (by bus or plane, not in a 1961, Ricky Nelson sorta-way) English Muffin Shop has creatively colorful prints on beautiful papers, perfect for his office. The hubs gifted me with a calendar designed by Bess Callard last year and I was impressed by the quality of print and attention to detail. You won’t be disappointed!
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9. A pair of funky cuff links in smooth porcelain are an easy conversation starter.

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10. If your amore is artistic, get him a Kraft cover sketchbook with acid free paper. He will picture you in his mind each time he uses it.

11. If you can rock the polka dots, why can’t he?

   

12. If he’s not afraid of color, these slim fit khakis are a stand-out. A little more reserved? Don’t fret, there are multiple shades available.

13. Anything off of the New York Times Bestsellers List.

14. Take him out dancing in Cole Haan’s twist on the classic cap-toe shoe. For an extra dash of individuality, swap out the black laces for blue.

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15. Has he been naughty? Hopefully not, but this Christmas Coal Candy from Sprinkle Bakes is sure to spark a chuckle or two. Gather up a small bag and drop it into the toe of his stocking on Christmas Eve!

A Playlist for Entertaining: Cocktails and Cheer

Have a twinkling time decorating the Christmas tree, gathering with friends, or toasting the year’s accomplishments with Cocktails and Cheer, my latest playlist on Spotify.

 

You can download a free account here if you don’t already have one. Have fun!

Warm Rosemary Olives from Real Simple

An Especially Warm Welcome from one of my favorite magazines.

Melanie Acevedo via www.RealSimple.com

Melanie Acevedo via RealSimple.com

The warmest of welcomes comes straight from the heart, and hot from the oven. This fantastic, colorful and fragrant opener makes an appearance at all of my holiday gatherings. In Cozy Nook, the Lenox house, I’d fill an entire jelly roll pan with these little bursts of salt and herb. When warmed, the fresh rosemary fills the kitchen with the scents reminiscent of Christmas parties past, laughter, homestead, hearth and good cheer.

Click here for the Recipe for Warm Rosemary Olives, via www.RealSimple.com. To follow Real Simple on Facebook, click here.

Holiday Preparations: Time to Get Festive

Pie and Brownies

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie, Apple with Almond Crumb Crust and Sinful Fudge Brownies

The holidays are a wonderful time of year.

Let’s kindle the festive spirit  so that the glow of wonder and magic lasts throughout the long winter. Here I am going to share my favorite seasonal tips, treats and topics over the next few posts. Please join me on this sleigh ride!

And, if you’re feeling the spark, share your fave thing about the holidays below.