Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve Wedding

Last year we attended a wedding on New Year's Eve, and it was definitely a night to remember!

Matt and Meadow tied the knot amongst family and friends in Boston's Seaport neighborhood. The ceremony (which I believe Meadow wrote herself) was personal and heartfelt, and the party that followed was the perfect way to ring in 2013!

Like what you see? Here are the details:
Venue: Exchange Conference Center
Photographer:Briana Moore 
Invitations: CraftyPiePress (via Etsy)
Catering: East Meets West
Cake: Dessert Bar through East Meets West
Wedding Gown: Monique Lhuillier
Hair: Sarah Bortner
Groom's Attire: J. Crew
Transportation: Able Limo
Flowers: New Leaf Flores
Music: DJ Raffi

Matt and Meadow, Happy Anniversary! Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures of your wedding and for allowing Neal and I to be part of such a memorable event!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Gettin' Glam with Alexandra Dale

I am SO excited for today's post! In preparation for New Year's Eve, I met up with friend and makeup artist Alexandra (Ali) Dale who put together three incredible looks for me. She also shared some of her favorite products and a few "Pro Tips". Take it away Ali...

Start With Healthy Skin
Any makeup artist will tell you that great makeup starts with great skin. When you need your makeup to look natural and last all day, well-hydrated skin is a must! Since Lauren has extremely hydrated skin, I cleansed her face with Sephora Cleansing Water, added a lightweight, skin-energizing moisturizer from Origins, and used a tiny bit of Shiseido's Bio-Performance Super Corrective Eye Cream

Pro Tip: Did you apply your full face of makeup and then realize your skin is a little dehydrated and showing texture? Spray a hydrating mist or setting spray to help bring extra moisture to your skin. My favorites are Caudalie Beauty Elixer and Amore Pacific's Moisture Bound Skin Energy Hydrating Delivery System. 

Pro Tip: Have dry lips? After using a lip exfoliator, try using a moisturizer instead of a lip balm to provide hydration. Lip balms tend to sit on top of the skin (and can disturb lipstick), but your regular face moisturizer will penetrate the lips and leave no residue. 

Look #1: Bronze Glow
For a natural look, try playing with a bronzy glow for both the complexion and eyes. Cold winter days can make skin look dry and tired, but creating a radiant finish to the skin will give you a fresh look. 

On Lauren, I wanted to keep the complexion dewy and the eyes blowy, but not shiny or glittery. Any shimmer I used in products was either cream based or a finely milled powder. I also stayed away from any chunky glitter, and iridescent or bright colors, keeping this look subtle and natural. 

Here are the products I used (also pictured above):

Pro Tip: Don't be afraid of cream blush! It's the fastest way to get a natural glow to the cheek without the texture or powdery finish of a powder blush. Just tap it along the cheek bone and blend with a clean finger. When you're ready to give it a try, check out Stila's Convertible Colors, the Nars Multiple Stick, or the Josie Maran Argan Color Stick that I used on Lauren. 

Look #2: Sexy Cat Eye
This is such a classic look and can easily get you into the holiday spirit. No matter what red lipstick you wear this holiday season (be it a burgundy red or even a bright orange-y red), a statement lip color with clean, black liner will get you party-ready very quickly. Try it this New Year's Eve!

On Lauren, I wanted to use a classic pin-up girl red lipstick and keep the liner dramatic but not overwhelming (you'll notice that I kept the line thin with only a small wing). I kept the lid of the eye bright with a skin-tone eyeshadow, using black shadow only in the crease for dimension. A bright, bold lip color can easily wash out the rest of the face, so I applied a rose-gold blush on the apples of Lauren's cheeks. It's just enough to compliment, but not compete with, the lip color. 

Lauren already had foundation on from Look #1 above, but here are the additional products that I used to create this look:

Pro Tip: When applying red lipstick, start by filling in the lip with red lip liner. Fill in the entire lip to make the look last longer. When you get to the edges, use short, small strokes and connect the small lines together. You'll end up with a more even, straight edge. 

Look #3: New Year's Eve Vamp
New Year's Eve is the perfect occasion for dressing up, having fun, and fearlessly wearing glitter! This is the one night of the year when it's totally acceptable to wear more makeup than you normally would and try something new!

To keep it sexy and playful, I decided to go with both a smoky eye and a vampy lip on Lauren. A dark plum lip is daring and fun (plus the blue undertones make teeth look whiter), but I used a mauve lip liner that was lighter than the lipstick color to keep the lips from getting too dark. Gloss keeps any look super sexy, so I threw on a but of glittery plum gloss too. 

On the eyes, I went for smokey (but not raccoon-like!), using light gold colors on the inside of the eyes and dark purple and black on the outer halves. To finish it off, I tapped some gold glitter across the lash line for extra sparkle. 

Products used for this look include:

Pro Tip: When you are creating a smoky eye, follow these tips:
1. Keep your eye open when contouring or shading the crease
2. Contour where shadows naturally fall on the eye
3. Work with two brushes, a blending brush and pigment brush
4.  Don't be afraid to use a pop of color!

Pro Tip: Using loose glitter? Try spraying Makeup Forever's Mist & Fix prior to applying the glitter to the shadow. You'll get great hold without a lot of texture. 

If you like the looks above or just want to get in touch, check out my website or follow me on:
Twitter: @AlexandraTDale

Have a Happy (and Beautiful) New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Chicago Favorite: Frontera Grill

We're still in Chicago, and tonight we're headed to one of my favorite restaurants: Frontera Grill. Although Frontera's menu is amazing, I really come here because Rick Bayless (or at least his bartenders) makes a fabulous margarita! Here's his Topolo Margarita recipe:

What You'll Need:
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
6 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons blanco tequila
1/4 cup Gran Torres orange liqueur (or Cointreau)
Lime wedges and coarse salt for serving


  1. Make limeade in advance. Combine the lime juice, sugar, and 1 cup of water in a pitcher. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours. 
  2. Add the tequila and orange liqueur to the pitcher of limeade and mix well. 
  3. Line the rims of your glasses by rubbing them with a lime wedge and dipping them in salt.
  4. In a large cocktail shaker, combine 1 part of the margarita mixture with 1 part ice. Shake and strain to the prepared glasses. Repeat.
Next time you're in Chicago, be sure to stop by for a Topolo Margarita at Frontera Grill or its sister restaurant, Topolobampo. You won't be disappointed!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Send a Note

Now that you've unwrapped all of your holiday gifts, it's time to start writing! Hand-written thank you notes are the warmest way to show your appreciation. Follow these simple tips:
  1. Buy Stationery. Hand-written notes are becoming a lost art form, but embossed cards with lined envelopes look much nicer than an email or a piece of notebook paper stuffed into a regular envelope. I have some of the Kate Spade cards pictured above stashed away for anytime I need to write a quick thank you.
  2. Personalize It. I don't mean monogram your stationery (although that is lovely). Reference something about the gift like "I plan on displaying it on the mantle above our fireplace" or perhaps mention an upcoming event where you'll see the thank-you note recipient. These tiny additions will make it seem as if you're not just churning out template thank-yous out of obligation,
  3. Be Yourself! A note doesn't have to be stiff- feel free to add humor and sarcasm to your note, especially if the gift-giver knows you well.
  4. Don't Reference Money. This can be tricky if you received money or a gift card, but all you have to say is "Thank you for your generous gift. I plan to use it to...". Just make sure the gift-giver would approve of your money-spending plans before you divulge them!
  5. Get to the Point. You don't need to ramble on about how your new job is going or all of the resolutions you have for the new year, and you certainly don't need to exaggerate how much you LOVE the gift. Be concise, yet appreciative and personal.
Emily Post advises that if a gift came from a close relative, you can skip the note. However, if that gift didn't come from your Mom, Dad, Sister, or Brother, don't assume that an in-person thanks is enough. If a person went to the trouble of hosting a party or purchasing a gift for you, it's not too much to ask for you to spend a few minutes writing a heartfelt card.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I hope this holiday brings only wonderful things for you and yours!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sequins for Dinner

It's Christmas Eve and Neal and I have been out and about in Chicago. Tonight we're having dinner with my family- it's just the six of us, so upscale party attire is not required. To find the perfect outfit, I've looked to Kendi Everyday for a little inspiration.

I love the sequins and color- it's perfect for a festive dinner and maybe a few under-the-mistletoe smooches with my honey. Although I can't replicate it piece-for-piece using the clothes I've packed, i'm going to borrow some key elements.

Visit Kendi Everyday by clicking here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

City Guide: Chicago for the holidays

Neal and I are in Chicago this week to spend the holidays with my family. Although we have a lots of parties to attend and people to see, we're going to hit some of the Chicago highlights as well.  If you're travelling to the Windy City this time of year, I've compiled a guide to some of the must-see attractions. 

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights: Each year, the Lincoln Park Zoo transforms into Chicago's very own North Pole, full of lights, cold-weather animals, ice sculptures and warm drinks. Santa might even make an appearance!

Christkindl Market: Modeled after the Nuremberg market in Germany, this is a one-stop German-holiday-gift shop. Even if you're not into German wares, stop by for some German fare: mulled wine and sausage. 

Macy's on State Street: A trip to Chicago wouldn't be complete without a holiday stop at Marshall Field's, which is now Macy's. The window displays on State Street never disappoint, and a trip to the Walnut Room is worth squeezing in. 

Ice Skating at Millennium Park: Neal isn't much of a skater, but I'm going to try to make a stop here. Ice skating is free and skate rental is only $10. Despite the crowds, skating in Millennium Park always makes me feel like I stepped out of a Christmas movie. 

Museum of Science and Industry: This might seem like an odd choice for this list. The Museum of Science and Industry is awesome any day, BUT around the holidays they have a special Christmas Around the World Exhibit. I'm hoping that we can swing by and learn a little bit about the Christmas traditions and customs of people around the globe. There's always time for a little bit of education!

Friday, December 20, 2013

New Year's Eve Party

Although it's not Christmas yet, I'm thinking ahead!  If you plan to ring in the new year with all of your nearest and dearest, check out these New Year's Eve party ideas:

Black and White Party, Pinterest

Black and Gold NYE Party, The Sweetest Occasion

Gold and White NYE Party, Hostess with the Mostess
A great New Year's Eve party wouldn't be complete without some bubbly! Check out my post from earlier this week to make sure you know what to look for when purchasing Champagne.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Art of Re-gifting

When you open a gift in the presence of the gift-giver this holiday season, it is important to be enthusiastically grateful, even if you hate it. Your friend or family member put thought and effort into selecting something just for you, so if it's not your taste, simply smile and be a gracious gift receiver. 

When it comes time to regift that treasure, Emily Post gives us some guidance:
  1. Only re-gift (i.e. give the item to a new recipient) if you're certain that it's something the new recipient would love to receive. You don't want to start a chain of re-gifting!
  2. Make sure that the gift is in new condition, still in a box with instructions (if applicable).
  3. Be cautious about who receives the re-gifted item. You don't want to accidentally give it back to the original gift-giver or their sister or close friend. That's a recipe for hurt feelings.
  4. White Elephant Parties are a good opportunity to re-gift items that don't suit your style. Make sure that the original gift-giver isn't a participant (see item 3). 
  5. Will the original gift-giver appreciate seeing you use the gift (ex. your Mother-in-Law)? If so, it's best to tuck it away and maybe pull it out couple of times when she visits.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pop the Champagne

Christmas and New Year's Eve are a time for celebration... and Champagne! If you're planning to indulge in something bubbly this year, make sure you know what to buy. Here are some of the terms you might find on the bottle:

  • Vintage and Non-Vintage: In this case, vintage has nothing to do with age. "Vintage" indicates grapes from a single harvest in a given year. Winemakers won't necessarily release a new vintage each year- it all depends on how the grapes turn out. When a wine is made from grapes that came from different harvests (potentially in different years), it's referred to as NV or non-vintage. 
  • Cuvee: This means that the bubbly is made from a special house blend. These are typically vintage wines that have spent extra time aging and developing character. They'll be a bit pricier than a regular non-vintage bottle.
  • Brut: This is a flavor designation that indicates a very dry sparkling wine. It's the most common type of Champagne and it's the safest bet if you're shopping for a party or a gift.
  • Extra-Dry or Extra-Sec: This flavor designation means that the bubbly is slightly sweeter than "Brut."
  • Demi- Sec or Doux: These flavor designations mean that you're getting a sweet dessert wine. I once heard that Marie Antoinette and the French Court preferred their Champagne to be very high in sugar, just like this!
  • Champagne and Sparkling Wine: The difference between these two really comes down to where it's made. Sparkling wine can only be called "Champagne" if it comes from the Champagne region of France. 
  • Blanc de Noirs: This is a white wine produced from black grapes. Typically these are produced in the Brut style.
  • Blanc de Blancs: This wine is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes, which will age well. This is one to lay down in your cellar!
Regardless of the flavor profile or vintage you choose, always look for sparkling wine or Champagne made from Pinot Noir and/or Chardonnay grapes. These are the grapes found in all of the world's best sparkling wines. 

One of my favorite sparkling wines is from Robert Hunter Winery in Sonoma, California. Mr. Hunter also makes a great Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay, and his estate is worth checking out if you're ever in the area. 


Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Hot Chocolate

The Barefoot Contessa rarely steers me wrong, and her recipe for Holiday Hot Chocolate is definitely no exception. When you're ready to snuggle up next to the fire, try whipping up a quick batch. It's super easy to make!

What You'll Need:
4 cups whole milk
4 cups half-and-half
1 lb white chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Seeds from 2 vanilla beans
1/3 cup Grand Marnier 

  1. In a saucepan on medium heat, warm the milk and half-and-half to just below the simmering point. 
  2. Remove the pan from heat and add the white chocolate. Stir until melted.
  3. Add the vanilla, vanilla bean seeds, and the orange liqueur. Whisk vigorously.
  4. Reheat gently if needed and serve.
Tip: If you want something extra-festive, try substituting Peppermint Schnapps for the Grand Marnier and garnish with a candy cane!

Friday, December 13, 2013


A dear friend of mine is hosting a party tonight in Chicago, and although I cannot attend in person I've helped her to find some perfect Champagne Cocktails for her festive fete. Here are the contenders:
  1. Poinsettia Cocktail: Mix 1/2 part chilled Cointreau with 3 parts chilled cranberry juice in a pitcher. Fill a glass 2/3 full then top with Champagne.
  2. Champagne Cider Sparkler: Rim glasses by dipping them into apple cider then into a mix of pumpkin pie spice and either sugar or coarse ground cinnamon. Fill each glass with 3 parts champagne to 1 part apple cider.
  3. Sparkling Pomegranate Punch: Dissolve 3 tablespoons of sugar into 1 cup of pomegranate juice. Add two bottles of champagne and 3/4 cup of white wine (Riesling is a good choice for this punch). Add 2 thinly sliced oranges, 1 cup of diced pineapple, and 1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds. Serve over ice (bonus points if your ice cubes are made of pomegranate juice!). 
  4. Emeril's Champagne Punch: Combine 1 1/3 cups fresh lemon juice, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup Grand Marnier, 1/2 cup Triple Sec, 1/2 cup cognac, 1/2 cup fresh orange juice in a punch bowl. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add two bottles of chilled Champagne and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour. Garnish with orange slices and fresh strawberries. 
Happy Graduation Trina! I hope your party is a smashing success and I can't wait to catch up with you soon.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Make it Present-able

A great gift gets even better when it's nicely wrapped. With Christmas quickly approaching, I've collected some gift-wrap ideas to help you  make your presents presentable!

Chalkboard Tags, LiaGriffith.com
Tartan with Bow-Tie Bows, Pinterest
Pine cones and Raffia, Pinterest
Recycle Calendar Pages, Paper-source.com

Use a Beautiful Ribbon, Pinterest
A Sleigh Filled with Presents, Delight + Decorum 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cookies for Santa

My "little sister" Tatiana and I have an annual holiday cookie-decorating tradition. This year, I turned our cookie decorating into a cookie bake-a-thon! Here's what's on the plate for Santa to sample:

Soft Ginger Cookies

What You'll Need:
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cup gluten free flour (or regular All-Purpose flour if you desire)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Additional sugar for rolling


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and molasses, then slowly add the dry ingredients (i.e. flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt).
  3. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll them in sugar before placing them on ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until puffy. Let them cool slightly before you enjoy them- you might burn your tongue!
Russian Tea Cakes

What You'll Need:
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cup gluten free flour 
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
Extra powdered sugar for rolling

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until the dough holds together.
  3. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes (until set but not brown- they might crack slightly on top, and that's OK!). 
  5. Remove from the cookie sheet and cool slightly on a wire rack. While the cookies are still warm, roll them in the extra powdered sugar you've reserved. 
  6. Let the cookies continue to cool and roll them in powdered sugar once more prior to serving. 
Rolled Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

For these, I used the sugar cookie recipe located at Food.com and simply substituted gluten free flour. I used slightly less flour than the recipe called for because I didn't want crumbly cookies, and they turned out great!

Here's how you make the buttercream (it's so easy!):
  • Beat 2 sticks of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and slowly add powdered sugar and a little bit of half and half or cream (go easy on the cream- it doesn't take much).
  • Alternate adding powdered sugar(don't skimp!) and tiny bits of cream or half and half until the frosting tastes the way you like it and is the right consistency. If it's too runny, you can always add more sugar.
  • Separate the buttercream into individual bowls and add food coloring for decorating.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Politely Decline

I love to make plans with friends, but it's easy to over-program your schedule (especially during the holidays). If you receive an invitation for an event you don't want to attend, you should feel empowered to politely decline. We've all been there! Follow these 5 simple steps you're sure to remain in your friend's good graces:
  1. Don't make up a lame excuse. Respond honestly and in a timely manner. It's OK to say that you've been really busy lately and you need just some down time. 
  2. Thank your friend (or the party's host) for the invite. It's flattering that they thought to invite you.
  3. Schedule another time in the near future to catch up. 
  4. Send a thoughtful note or a small gift if you were invited to celebrate a birthday, new baby, graduation, or the like. This shows that you're still thinking of them, even though you're not there in person.
  5. If you're skipping a party, follow up with your friend a few days afterward to see how it went. Who doesn't love bragging about the great party they threw?
Tip: If you've bailed on a particular friend a few times in a row, it might be time to suck it up and attend the party (even if you don't want to). Remember that you have to BE a good friend in order to have good friends.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

There's something comforting about a big bowl of hot soup when it's cold outside. This chicken noodle soup recipe is one of my favorites because it's SO simple and I usually have all of the ingredients at home.

What You'll Need:
3-4 quarts of Chicken Stock (Depending on the stuff-to-broth ratio you prefer)
1 tsp olive oil
1 diced onion
3 cloves of garlic, diced
3-5 carrots, diced
3-4 stalks of celery, diced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1-2 cups cooked shredded chicken (I like to use leftovers from a roast chicken or turkey)
2 cups of Gluten Free flour (or All-Purpose if you prefer)
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/3 cup milk

  1. Start by making the noodles. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt, egg, and milk until you form a slightly sticky ball of dough (if it's not sticky, add a little bit more milk). 
  2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out the dough (make it very thin because the noodles will puff up). 
  3. Cut the noodles into the desired shape with a paring knife and let them sit for about 1 hour so they dry out. 
  4. While the noodles are drying, saute the onion in the olive oil in a large soup pot. When the onion begins to get translucent, add the garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook for about a minute.
  5. Add the broth, bay leaf, thyme, and shredded chicken. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 hours.
  6. Add the dry noodles to the soup about 30 minutes prior to serving. 
  7. Garnish with fresh ground pepper to taste and serve hot. Yum!

Friday, December 6, 2013

For the Hostess

Whether you're an overnight guest or simply stopping by for a cocktail party or dinner, a small gift is a lovely way to thank your host or hostess for their hospitality.  A bottle of wine, a sweet treat, or a candle can go a long way. Here are a few ideas for this holiday season. Stock up in advance so you're never in a scramble!

Dominoes- A Fun Party Game, RestorationHardware.com
Vintage Inspired Apron, Anthropologie,com
Rewined Wine-Inspired Candles, WestElm.com
Peppermint Bark, WilliamsSonoma.com
Reindeer Appetizer Plates, PotteryBarn.com
Don't forget to include a nice note expressing your gratitude and a bow to make it look pretty. Taking a few extra steps to make your present present-able will go a long way.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

'Tis the Season

'Tis the season... party season, that is! You might have all of your holiday party outfits styled and ready, but if not, this post is for you.  I've found inspiration for any occasion. If you like what you see, try making it your own.

Casual Night Out,  Shoestring Fashion via Pinterest
Banana Republic Looks by L'Wren Scott, Pinterest

Covered Up and Still Fun, PopSugar via Pinterest
Glittery Inspiration, Intermix via Pinterest

Classy in a LBD, Pinterest
Still looking for the right outfit? Try Stitchfix. The stylists at Stitchfix send you a box of beautiful clothes each  month, accompanied by styling tips so you know exactly how to dress each piece up or down. You only pay for what you keep- it makes shopping a breeze (and who doesn't love getting snail mail?).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Under the Mistletoe

Kissing under the mistletoe is one of my favorite holiday traditions, but chapped lips can certainly ruin the moment! Check out my picks for totally kiss-able lips:

  1. Fresh Sugar Lip Polish: This sweet scrub made with real brown-sugar crystals will help to buff away flakes caused by cold winter air. Use it before you apply your lip color or balm.
  2. Lipstick Queen, Medieval: Lipstick Queen makes the most incredible lipsticks! I like Medieval because it provides a very sheer red tint, but it gets bolder as you apply more. If you're new to the brand, try the Discovery Kit or Hall of Fame. Their silky, moisturizing formulas don't disappoint!
  3. Bobbi Brown Lip Gloss, Teaberry: I always have one of Bobbi's glosses in my bag. My go-to color right now is Teaberry, a flattering deep plum. In addition to the beautiful color, the gloss is formulated with botanical extracts like Avocado, Jojoba, and Chamomile Oils. 
  4. Nivea Lip Butter: You can pick up this sweet, vanilla and macadamia scented lip butter at your local drugstore for a steal! Not every moment calls for lip color. Sometimes all you need is a little bit of lip hydration and this does the trick.
  5. Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm: This conditioning balm is really made for your man, but it's definitely one worth stealing from him! I put one in Neal's socking last Christmas and after borrowing it once, I was hooked! It's sheer, minty, and ultra-moisturizing, plus it has SPF 25. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Trim the Tree

We put up our Christmas tree this weekend, and it looks festive with the ornaments we've collected over the years! If you're still looking for some decoration inspiration, check out these trees:

Classic Christmas Tree from PotteryBarn.com

Ice Blue Tree from Pinterest
Tinsel Tabletop tree from MarthaStewart.com

Candy Cane Tree from Hobby Lobby via Pinterest
Outdoor Tree from Pinterest

Monday, December 2, 2013

Work off that Turkey!

It's Monday morning, and i have to admit that I'm still a little bit full from Thanksgiving leftovers. This is only the beginning of the holiday season, so I'll be heading to Pure Barre Boston to keep those lbs at bay while continuing to enjoy time with friends, family, and lots of food.

Pure Barre is absolutely addicting, and if my schedule allowed for it, I'd be there every day. Here's why:
  1. The workout is uniquely challenging each time you show up. After attending classes for several months, I still get sore from time to time. I've seen remarkable improvements in my strength, and I've been getting lots of compliments from Neal on how great I look (um, who wouldn't love that?!).
  2. The music is great (important at 6am when you need a little energy boost) and the instructors are helpful and encouraging. Although there are several people in a class, I always feel like I get personal attention and the instructors really push me to get the best workout possible. 
  3. Pure Barre has some of the same relaxation benefits as yoga. Each exercise takes an incredible amount of focus, which keeps other pesky thoughts at bay. It's a great way to clear your head for an hour.
If you live in Boston, consider checking out a class for yourself (click here). I'll see you at the barre bright and early!

Note: If you don't live in Boston, no worries! Find a studio in your area by clicking here

Friday, November 29, 2013

Latke Love

Happy Hanukkah! You might be stuffed with turkey and pumpkin pie from yesterday's feast, but I have to share this incredible recipe for Potato Latkes from Bon Appetit's December 2012 issue. 

What You'll Need:
4-6 large russet potatoes
2 large yellow onions
2 eggs
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs (I use GF panko breadcrumbs)
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4+ tablespoons of vegetable oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Peel the potatoes and onions. Grate them using the large holes of a box grater and transfer to a large kitchen towel (Note: Your towel will get starchy and wet, so plan to wash it immediately after use). Gather the ends of the towel and twist over the sink to wring out as much of the liquid as possible. Open the towel and toss the mixture, then repeat the twisting. 
  2. Whisk eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, baking powder, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend. Add the potato mixture and blend it all together using your fingers (yep, you'll have to get a little messy for this one!). The latke mixture should be wet and thick, but not soupy.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Put a wire rack inside another baking sheet and set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat (there should be about 1/8" of fat in the pan). Drop a tiny amount of the latke mixture in the pan to test the oil. If it sizzles around the edges, the oil is ready.
  5. Working in batches and adding more oil to the skillet as needed, drop large spoonfuls of the latke mixture into the pan, gently pressing them down with the back of a spoon to flatten slightly. 
  6. Cook latkes, occasionally rotating the pan for even browning, until golden brown and cooked through (about 3 minutes per side). If small pieces break off and start to burn, carefully strain them out. 
  7. Transfer the latkes to the paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain, then transfer them to the prepared wire rack (see step 3). Place the sheet with the wire rack and latkes into the oven to keep them warm and crisp while you continue to cook the remaining latkes.

Latkes are traditionally served with sour cream and/or applesauce. Because this year's Festival of Lights overlaps with Thanksgiving, try pairing your potato pancakes with some leftover turkey and a little cranberry sauce. It is guaranteed to be delicious!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Set the Table

Thanksgiving is here, and I know that many of you will be hosting a big crowd. Your guests are on their way and the turkey is in the oven, so what's left? The table setting!

Jamie at Perfecting Fabulous posted some great tips to help you get it right:

  • Picture the word FORKS. Starting on the left, you have the Fork (F), and then the Plate (O is the shape of the plate). To the right (R) of the plate, you place the Knives (K) and Spoon (S). Clever and easy to remember!
  • Holding your hands out in front of you, make a lowercase 'b' with your left hand and a lowercase 'd' with your right hand. This helps you to remember that the bread plate goes to the left of the place setting and drinks go on the right. 
Once you know where everything should be placed, check out this article from Elle Decor on how to create a chic tablescape for your Thanksgiving feast or any dinner party that you might have this holiday season.