Happy Halloween!

Halloween has finally arrived! Since we got most of our celebrating in over the past couple of weekends, tonight will be spent on the couch, handing out candy (assuming any kids show up – our track record has been pretty hit or miss, despite my efforts of supplying full-sized candy bars each year).

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Speaking of candy, what’s your favorite Halloween treat? I always liked a solid mix of fruity candy and chocolate (although when push comes to shove, chocolate reigns supreme 100% of the time in my book). My all-time favorite is the humble Milky Way bar, which people talk a lot of smack on (“it’s like a Snicker’s, only worse.” “Booo-ring!”), but I think there’s something to be said about its smooth, creamy simplicity – take your gross peanuts and kick rocks, Snickers! Also, your nougat is inferior. Yeah, I said it.

Ahem, anyway…I think if I was to choose a top 5, it would go as follows:

  1. Milky Way
  2. Twix
  3. Sour Patch Kids (although the Halloween size is admittedly pathetic)
  4. Skittles
  5. Reese’s pumpkin (I’ll also take a full size cup in a pinch)

As a small disclaimer, I’d like to clarify that if Reese’s Fastbreak wasn’t impossible to find (and possibly discontinued?!!) it would take number one EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Best candy bar ever to exist. The nougat is PERFECT, the texture is exquisite, and the salty, slightly grainy peanut butter complements the whole thing like a dream. It’s frankly tragic that this miracle of a treat isn’t more celebrated.

Welp…that was a lot of candy bar talk from someone who claims to not really even like candy bars (I eat MAYBE 2 full candy bars a year, but don’t worry – the amount of random candy and chocolate I eat in other forms more than makes up for my lack of bar consumption). I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween, and gorge yourselves appropriately!

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday, friends! Jeff and I have a Halloween bash to attend Saturday evening – we’re going as Bob and Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers ūüôā In honor of Halloween quickly approaching (actually, I feel like it should’ve come and gone already…I feel like it’s been “almost Halloween” for about a month now), I thought I’d share a few of my past costumes:

Umm, just a quick disclaimer: I typically fall somewhere between “lazy” and “complete buzzkill” when it comes to Halloween and don’t usually put much, if any, effort into my costume. Okay, moving on…

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Wednesday Addams…This one wins the award for “Best costume compiled entirely of clothes that were already in my closet and thrown together in 5 minutes.”

Ah, the chicken suit: one of my all-time favorites. Points off for sweaty face, as well as difficulty breathing, seeing, and eating.

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EXTREMELY lazy “cat” – this one wins the award for “WORST costume compiled entirely of clothes that were already in my closet and thrown together in 5 minutes.” To be fair, I believe this happened when I was already at a friend’s house and they sprung a Halloween bar crawl on me last second…the cat ears happened to be in my car, so¬† I went with it.

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Oof. This was the year Jeff & I went as “sexy Harry Potter and Hermione.” This was the one and only time I’ve ever worn a pre-fab “sexy” costume from a Halloween store…it was pretty bad, and makes me feel shame.

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Another extremely lazy offering, “Cool Cat.” This one gets a pass for youth – I think I basically just wanted to be cute at the bar. Missing here is Jeff’s TERRIBLE costume from that year (which I believe was our first Halloween together), “Rapping Paper” – clever in theory, horrifying in execution (he looked like a nightmare version of Data from Star Trek). Also absent: “Birthday Cat” – this was a last second costume I came up with upon learning we had to wear costumes to work at the restaurant I had just been hired at, so I recycled the damn cat ears and threw on a party hat to go as a “party animal.” One of my tables asked me if I was a “birthday cat” and our chef, Eric, thought it was the funniest thing he had ever heard…that nickname has stuck around to this very day (and I haven’t even worked at that restaurant in 4 years!)

Anyone else doing anything festive over the weekend? Have a great one, and don’t get too spooked!

Holiday Round-Up

This holiday season has felt bonkers, and it FLEW by. I feel like I can safely say this has been the busiest holiday season I can remember. Thankfully, I got over my grinchiness by early December and I’ve been enjoying the holiday whirlwind. I will say, though…I still don’t know that I’d say I feel particularly Christmassy…I feel happy and excited and I’ve been enjoying myself, but I don’t have that cozy, warm, nostalgic feeling that normally comes with the holiday season. I’m going to chalk it up to unseasonably warm weather (up until the past couple of days, anyway), the fact that I’ve been so busy (with both holiday and non-holiday related activities) and that Christmas really seemed to sneak up on me this year. I feel like LAST Christmas was only a few months ago! Is this how the rest of my life is going to go?? Yikes!

Anyway, I thought I’d check in and give a run-down of I’ve been up to over the past few weeks.

After a really nice Thanksgiving spent with family, we went to pick out our tree and got to work decking the halls. For the past two years, we’ve bought our tree from a pop-up lot set up by our local Lion’s Club. It may not be as festive as going to a farm to cut our own tree or as cost-effective as buying a tree from a big box store or the sketchy guys who set up outside McDonald’s with a trashcan fire and a sign that says “ALL TREES $20,” but we really like the guys who work the lot and it feels good knowing that we’re helping a good cause. As always, we set our tree up while watching Bad Santa…although this year, we also added “A Very Murray Christmas” to the mix.

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I decided to branch out from all boring bulb ornaments this year, and I’m loving the results

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I decided I wanted to keep my birthday pretty low-key this year, so we celebrated with a dinner at the Melting Pot (I had never been and everyone kept telling me it was worth checking out), and and evening wandering around Longwood Gardens (a local institution that has a legendary light display every Christmas). It was a really nice, relaxing weekend – everything I was hoping for after a non-stop few months.

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Post dinner shot

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Huge Longwood tree

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Jeff and I both thought this tree was awesome with the lights all the way down to its roots…the lights even continued over to the other side of the footbridge!

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Birthday celebrations continued this last weekend with a birthday/holiday dinner with a few of my closest gal pals at my favorite restaurant, Terrain. It was great to get together and spend a couple hours laughing over wine and delicious food. One of my friends was even sweet enough to MAKE me a beautiful pallet sign for our house, and I can’t wait to decide where to put it!

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Obligatory latte shot from dinner

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Beautiful sign!

I’m off work today and tomorrow, and I’m getting ready to embark on my yearly Christmas cookie bake-a-thon. I’m baking a whopping THIRTEEN different types of cookies this year, and aside from the usual chocolate chip and my signature butter pecan cookies, I’m trying a couple traditional Italian cookies that my grandma used to make every year, along with a couple of totally new cookies (like frosted eggnog cookies and chocolate-cherry shortbread cookies). I think Jeff and I are going to catch up on the new season of Serial while I bake (along with lots and lots of Christmas music…mainly Hanson’s “Snowed In”, natch), and then I’ll pack up our yearly care packages to some of our close friends and family, along with our neighbors and co-workers. If baking about a million cookies and listening to 10 hours’ worth of Christmas music doesn’t get me in the spirit, I don’t know what will!

We also have a meeting with our travel agent this evening to discuss our honeymoon – eeeeek! I think I might be almost more excited for our honeymoon than our actual wedding…well, maybe not. It’s a toss-up. Suffice it to say that I’m EXTREMELY excited to nail down our final plans and actually start booking!

Other than that, Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye…only 4 days! I’m pretty much all ready…I have a couple tiny things left to wrap, but other than that I’m all set.

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I maybe went a liiiittle overboard with the gifts this year…also, can you tell which gifts Jeff wrapped? :-p

I hope everyone is having a very merry holiday season, and that you’re enjoying time with friends and family! Cheers!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

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This year is a little less lighthearted than normal, with everything that’s going on¬†in the world. That said, I’m doing my best to proceed as normal and to enjoy my fortunate life with the people I love. That’s all we really can do. Life must go on.

Speaking of life – it’s¬†been crazy around here in the weeks leading up to the holiday. My dad and brother are spending Thanksgiving with us, so we finally made some progress on our guest room so that they’d each have their own designated space¬†to stay. We finally got the room painted and the bed set up with new linens, and put a nightstand and a lamp in there. We were going to get the room carpeted (we had an appointment and everything), but ended up cancelling last minute due to the company we were using not really following through and us not being able to reschedule at the last second. So, we decided to re-finish the hardwood floors ourselves instead. Jeff wanted to do it last weekend, but I was nervous that something would go wrong and leave the room totally out of commission for the holiday, so we held off. I did order a rug for the room and it arrived earlier this week, so we just laid it over the huge, gross rug that’s already in there for the time being. The room isn’t perfect yet, but it’s livable, and I really like the way it’s coming together. I’ll put up pictures once the floors have been refinished. Between trying to get the guest room finished, visiting guests at work for Jeff, and wedding planning (I finally bought my dress (!!), and we had our cake tasting Monday evening), life has been non-stop.

This is my third year hosting Thanksgiving, and I’ve developed a nice little rhythm and schedule. I try to take most of Thanksgiving week off, so that I can get everything done at a relaxed pace. I made my pies and finished grocery shopping yesterday, and I’ll prep most of my food today. My dad and brother will arrive at some point this evening, and I have the house mostly good to go for their arrival. Jeff and I have established a tradition of ordering hoagies from a local shop on Thanksgiving eve, since I’m always cooking and don’t have time to worry about dinner, and it’s become one of the things I most look forward to. I’ll set the table tonight, so all I’ll really have to do tomorrow is roast the turkey, cook a couple veggies and the rolls, and heat everything up.

I’ve made some little tweaks to the menu each year, and while I can’t say I’ve settled on the perfect menu just yet, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got. Here’s this year’s finalized menu, if you’re curious:

Simple Roast Turkey – New York Times (This is seriously such an easy recipe, and it’s far and away the best turkey I’ve ever had. Highly recommended, especially if you’re intimidated about making a turkey for the first time.)

Green Bean Casserole – Smitten Kitchen

Whipped Sweet Potatoes – Tyler Florence

Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Mashed Potatoes (I literally make 10 pounds of potatoes. For 5 people.)

Turkey Gravy – Sam Sifton

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Martha’s Macaroni and Cheese – Martha Stewart, by way of Smitten Kitchen

Parker House Rolls

Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole – Smitten Kitchen (do you notice a theme here?)

Roasted Cauliflower

Cornbread Stuffing¬†– Michael Symon (I don’t really like stuffing – I KNOW, I know. So I try a new recipe every year, and this will by my first attempt at cornbread stuffing. This recipe looks really tasty!)

Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie – Smitten Kitchen

Pecan Pie  РSmitten Kitchen

French Silk Pie – Cup of Jo

Do you guys think that’s enough food for FIVE FREAKING PEOPLE? I’m a real sicko. I also grabbed a couple little things to set out as appetizers – dinner was usually kind of rushed previously, but it should be more laid back this year. I’m happily going to push the meal back a couple of hours, make some festive cocktails (sparkling wine with cranberry juice? Yes, please!), and set out some hummus & crackers and let everyone¬†munch away.

I hope everyone has a happy, relaxing, delicious holiday weekend. I also took off Black Friday for the first time in years, so I’m excited about that as well (although I’m DEFINITELY not going to go out shopping – I’m just excited to relax at home with my family and probably do some online shopping). Cheers!

Pumpkin Spice: Some Thoughts

I’ve spoken a lot about fall, and the phenomenon of the “basic bitch,” and the uprising of the autumn season and the love of everything pumpkin and spiced. But today, I’d like to specifically discuss my own personal feelings about pumpkin spice as a flavor.

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Okay, so like, I like pumpkin just fine. I like pumpkin pie. I like it a lot if it’s good pumpkin pie, and if it’s buried under a pile of whipped cream. I’ll even take Cool Whip, and I think Cool Whip is gross. I like pumpkin baked goods. They’re tasty. And pumpkin is healthy. So that’s good.

But, ya know…pumpkin spice isn’t my favorite flavor. Of anything, really. I’d say it falls solidly in the mid-range of things that I enjoy. Pumpkin spice to me is more about the¬†feeling of pumpkin spice. It really emulates that warm, cozy, homey fall feeling. But the flavor, for me? Honestly, I find most pumpkin-spiced flavored things to be “meh.” I honestly really like Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. I think it’s very tasty. But most other places pumpkin-flavored coffee type beverages are way too syrupy and sometimes too aggressively spiced, and I think they’re kind of gross. I’m pretty sensitive to sugar overload as it is, and with pumpkin spice, sugar overload tends to be quite prevalent. And honestly, I just tried a Toasted Graham Latte from Starbucks, and I have to say, I found it to be even tastier than the elusive PSL.

So, anyway…why do I feel compelled to try every single pumpkin spice flavored thing? I can’t stop! I just bought pumpkin spice flavored fudge stripe cookies. They’re okay. I don’t know why I needed to buy them, though. I’d never normally buy novelty cookies. Why the pumpkin spice ones? I was just thinking about my next Naturebox order, and you better believe I put the limited edition pumpkin spice Nom Noms in my pantry…but when I think about them, I bet they’re not going to be very good. That’s not stopping me, though. I always buy all the pumpkin spice flavored candy (like M&Ms and Hershey Kisses and stuff), and they’re always VILE. But every time something new comes out, I NEED to try it.

Do you guys actually like pumpkin spice? Or are you like me, and just get caught up in all the hype?