31 December 2011

a champagne toast to the end of the world

Here's to the end of 2011.  It's been an interesting year to say the least, one filled with new friends, blizzards, broken bones, broken hearts, hurricanes and hopefulness.  I'm glad it's wrapping up and I am really excited about the prospect that tonight might just be that awesome New Year's Eve that I've craved all my life.  You know, the one that's spent wandering around with your friends, hopping from one awesome party to the next, having an epic kiss at midnight and then stumbling home around lunchtime on New Year's Day, covered in sequins, glitter and smeared lipstick?  Yeah, that's the kind of night I'm hoping for.  A 200 Cigarettes kinda night!  And though my dinner tonight will probably consist of something I rummage out of the back of the refrigerator as a mere sponge for the copious amounts of champagne I plan on enjoying later on in the evening, that won't stop me from providing my lovely readers with a New Year's menu that's sure to cap off 2011 right.

mmm look at paul rudd's side burns... i want to kiss him at midnight!

You see, last year, in an attempt to enjoy a quietly romantic holiday with my special someone and our favorite couple, I pulled out all the stops and made a fancy delicious dinner for four with the theme of the menu being, duh!  Champagne!  The food was wonderful and we had a lovely supper together before kicking off what would turn out to be a messy countdown and 2011 kickoff.  But let's not blame it on the food!  If you're looking for a quiet night in or a bit of pre-party dining with friends, you can't go wrong with this quick and simple meal.

new year's champagne supper
herb salad with walnuts & gorgonzola in a champagne vinnaigrette
creamy rosemary dijon roasted new potatoes
pan-seared asparagus
forty clove garlic roasted chicken
pear champagne sorbet

Everything on the menu is super easy but it's all so flavorful that your guests will rave about it and your belly will be happy and full and ready to start guzzling flutes of sparkly goodness.  I will admit that I did cheat a bit and roasted the chicken in a 40-clove garlic chicken braising base that I found at Williams-Sonoma but instead of slow cooking chicken pieces, I oven-roasted a whole chicken which I constantly basted with a mix of melted butter, homemade chicken stock and the 40-clove garlic braising sauce.  It was one of the most tender, juicy and flavorful chickens I have ever made so I make no apologies for the shortcuts I took.  The asparagus was simple, just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, nothing too crazy but I wanted more green than just a salad.  The salad on the other hand...

herb salad with walnuts & gorgonzola in a champagne vinnagrette
2 c butter lettuce, rinsed and torn
1 c fresh curly leaf and flat leaf parsley, rinsed and torn
1/2 c fresh cilantro, rinsed and torn
1/2 c fresh fennel leaves, rinsed and torn
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
fresh ground salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 c crumbled gorgonzola
1. In a large salad bowl, toss greens with cheese and walnuts.  Let chill aside until ready to serve.
2. In a smal dish, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, s&p until you have reached a dressing-like consistency.  Chill until ready to serve.  Lightly dress the cold greens with the vinnaigrette.

How easy is that?  And let me tell you, it's one of the best salads you've ever had.  Toss in some arugula for a bit of bitter spiciness or maybe chopped chives or fresh sweet basil, a red onion for some zest.  You can get really creative but this recipe is great and crisp and fresh and really pops, even in the dulls of winter.  You'll need something warm and creamy to pair with the crispy, refreshing salad, though.  That's where the potatoes come in.  I can't quite remember where I first saw this recipe for dijon roasted new potatoes, but I've made enough tweaks to it and fixed it up enough times without the recipe that I can safely say I've made it my own at this point.  It's always a hit and will make a great side next to nearly any meat or fish.  This time around I decided to make them a little creamy and toss in the extra bonus of fresh rosemary.  That's the great thing about a simple and basic recipe - it affords itself so easily to tweaking and experimentation once you've got the outline set in stone.

creamy rosemary dijon roasted new potatoes
1 lb new potatoes thinly sliced, like potato chip thin
3 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard
1 tbsp champagne dijon mustard
1/4 c cream
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
1. In an oven-safe casserole dish, toss all the ingredients together so that each potato slice is coated.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and start to brown.

I told you this meal was easy.  It gives you more time to reflect on the past year, consider your resolutions and enjoy time with your friends and family or random strangers that you'll be dining with.  The item on the menu that takes the longest time and is the most difficult is the dessert, especially if you don't have an ice cream maker which I did not.  Thankfully I have one this year, but I haven't busted it out just yet.  However, the meal would not be complete without a little bit of sweet to top it off before you start counting down or counting calories since we all know that tomorrow brings those horrible weight loss resolutions.  So enjoy the sweets now!  You only have a few more hours.

pear champagne sorbet
4 pears, peeled and chopped (I used one of each kind I found in the store - Bartlett, Bosc, Anjou & Starkrimson, kind of like I did with that disaster of a cake)
3 c champagne or prosecco (you can use the cheap stuff but make sure you serve the good stuff to drink)
maybe a cup of sugar (it depends on how sweet your liquid and pears are, it's really to taste I think)
1. It was a year ago so I don't really remember how this was done or exactly what the ingredients were but here's what I can recall.  Puree the pears and sugar in some water on top of the stove until they've reached a creamy consistency.  Mix with the champagne and pour into a metal pan, like one you'd use for brownies.  
2. Place the pan flat in the freezer and scrape the bottom about every 20 minutes for a few hours until all of the liquid is frozen and nothing is left on the bottom of the pan.  Keep frozen and continue to scrape until you're ready to serve.
3. When you're getting ready for dessert, remove the sorta sorbet from the pan and put it in a deep bowl.  Stir the mix until it looks more like a sorbet and serve immediately in pretty dishes with a flute of champagne on the side.

And there you have it - a wonderful meal to end the year on.  With that, I'm off to enjoy the last good day of the year with some wonderful friends.  And when midnight strikes I'm hoping for a big fat smooch, lots of sequins, sparklers, and a toast of real pain for my sham friends and champagne for my real friends.  Happy New Year everyone!  Here's hoping this isn't the beginning of the end of the world and that 2012 is just the beginning!

21 December 2011

drunk xmas

I guess there is such a thing as too much holiday spirit... or maybe it's too many holiday spirits.  Either way, it's an early Christmas present from the guys and gals over at Drunk History!  And it's got my boyfriend Ryan Gosling in it (hey girl, Merry Christmas) yay!  Make yourself a hot toddy and prepare to laugh -

20 December 2011

holiday revuesday - Rolf's

Though the German fare may be subpar at best (when daddy-o and I went we both thought 'eh, that was pretty good',) it's worth a trip to Rolf's just for the festive holiday decorations.  This long existing establishment on Third Avenue seems to have been through its fair share of ups and downs - changes in management, complete staffing changes, bad press, etc.  But the restaurant has managed to keep serving up plates of bratwurst and dumplings and weiner schnitzel alongside steins of traditional German brews. 

I think a major part of their longstanding success is due to their decor.  Throughout the year, visiting the interior of this little corner restaurant is like being transported to the deep, dark Black Forest.  A canopy of artificial leaves and florals sits atop dark wooden tables and chairs while flickering lights set an almost magical mood.  And then come the holidays.  It's like a fancy European fairytale Christmas blew up inside the restaurant.  What would normally be construed as tacky (thousands of lights, artificial garlands, ornaments and ribbons) actually looks beautiful in the extreme abundance.  The food may not be the best, but Rolf's is definitely worth popping in around the holidays just for the sight and spectacle.  So poke your head in, grab a seat at the bar, order a warm cocktail and enjoy the holiday magic!

19 December 2011

it's a holiday ham party - part deux

birthday meal for pops
Well, sort of.  Pork chops, same animal as ham just a different part.  In honor of my daddy-o's birthday, me and the gang got together to enjoy his favorite meal, some warm boozy cider, and our official tree lighting ceremony.  You see, the tradition in my house is that the tree doesn't get decorated until my dad's birthday.  Once the 19th hits, up go the lights and the tree is trimmed!  So, with our bellies full of shake 'n bake pork chops, the world's best mashed potatoes, and green beans with bacon and almonds, we strung up the lights and hung some ornaments, called the daddy-o to sing him a very tipsy rendition of "Happy Birthday" and then had some holiday photo shoots.  Holiday parties really are the best!

the cookin claus with two gals straight off the naughty list

merry christmas from the gals of the sweetest spot!

sparkle motion!

18 December 2011

boozin' in a winter wonderland

It's Sunday, kids and you know what that means?  It means my gal Vanessa is behind the bar at K&M serving up your favorite boozy winter beverages.  Join us for some toddies, hotties, Christmas movies and all the festive fun you can handle without being put on the naughty list!

whiskey or bourbon, cinnamon, cloves, lemon, hot water & honey

hot buttered rum
dark rum, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, 
hot water & a slice of unsalted fancy european butter

boozy hot cocoa
candy cane vodka, hot cocoa, marshmallows

17 December 2011

the best way to spread christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear

I listen to Christmas music all year long.  I had this friend in college, Tim, and the two of us would discuss the awesomeness of Christmas music outside Linthicum Hall in the middle of May.  We both really love Christmas music.  As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I turn the radio dial to the Light FM station because you know they start the 'all Christmas all the time' program as soon as they can.  I cook to Christmas music, I wake up to holiday songs, I fall asleep humming carols, and clean with Nat King Cole running through my brain.  Like my favorite holiday movies, my favorite Christmas songs are hard to narrow down into a top ten.  But for my dear readers, I'll try.  So in no particular order, here is a list of my favorite songs for the season -

Vince Guaraldi Trio's "Christmas Time Is Here" for the Charlie Brown special is so lovely and sweet.  It just captures the simplicity and kindness that should prevail around the holidays.  And who doesn't love Charlie Brown?

A favorite of both me and my kid sister was always Band Aid's "Feed the World."  We liked to watch the video and see how many of the celebrities we could recognize (which wasn't many because we were just kids and a lot of them were British.)  Our favorite line was always "and there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime" because it wasn't true and it made us laugh.  Need proof that it isn't true?  Here's a picture of Mount Kilamanjaro and it's snow peak... and an elephant.

I love the Pogues and I love New York at Christmastime so it only makes sense that I would love "Fairytale of New York."  So you can imagine my near heartbreak when I read this article at Bowery Boogie about the video almost never happening.  But it makes sense because they are the Pogues and they are drunks. 

A true holiday classic combines the old and the young with David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing a duet of Little Drummer Boy and Peace on Earth.  David Bowie might just be my favorite ever so it's kind of a given that I would totally love this one.  But I also love that Will Ferrell and John C Reilly do a very tasteful parody of the video.  It's good to laugh this time of year... no one really wants a belly that jiggles like a bowl full of jelly; laughing is good exercise.  But the original is great, too!

Stevie Wonder sings "This Christmas" like nobody else.  In fact, he sings anything like nobody else because he's awesome.  And he was on The Cosby Show that one time (jammin on the one.)  But I found this picture of him singing with the Biebs and decided that it would be acceptable to include another duet on my list, but only as a Christmas gift to Lizzie B.  She creepily has Bieber Fever.

Anything by the Kinks is always rockingly awesome.  So it makes perfect sense that they would come up with an amazing Christmas song and in it, demand that Santa give them money.  I love the Kinks.  I want a time machine so I can travel back in time and go to a Kinks concert.  Think you can manage that Santa?

How about the delightfully indie track "Just Like Christmas" from Low?  I love this one because it's not just a Christmas song... and it was on The OC.  Oh, Chrismukkah!

No list is complete without a little holiday message from those shaggy haired Ramones.  "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" is so good at capturing the spirit of the season and the spirit of rock and roll.  Well done, boys.  Bang your head to this one for sure!

Duh, Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" is always way up on the list.  How about we all join Sarah O of desirous of everything and learn the choreography for this amazing video?  It's not a holiday party until you bust out the choreographed dance moves!

Probably my ultimate fave holiday song ever in the history of the world is Wham!'s "Last Christmas."  It was especially poignant for me when I sang it at karaoke this year, though I tend to sing it at karaoke every year... I really gave it my all on the stage at Trash Bar.  I'm not sure if this is while singing a la George Michael or another song (I probably got in about four songs that night,) but here's me in my holiday flare with Julie singing about lost loves at Christmastime -

I've got about a million more holiday songs that I love and listen to on repeat, these are just the ones that are coming into my head right now.  But if you want a complete list of my favorite carols and Christmas jams, let me know.  I'd be happy to send it along.  Or better yet, I'll mail you a copy of my collection - way better than any TimeLife cd combo pack you might get that boasts to have all the hits of the holidays.  No way, mine is way better!

16 December 2011

christmas cookie party!

A few nights ago, me and my gals got together for some holiday baking.  Well, it was more like gossiping about boys and listening to music and having epic baking failures.  I burnt the melting chocolate for the pretzels, there were sprinkles everywhere, and our cookies fell flat.  But me and Sam and Vanessa had a super fun time together despite all of that... we always do.  And the pretzels, though they may look like a five-year old made them, were a huge hit at Val's birthday party.  The cookies haven't been shared with anyone because I plan on perfecting the recipe to prevent any future failures - peppermint hot chocolate cookies, yum!  Though our Christmas Cookie Party may not have been successful in the sense that we weren't able to use the cookies as gifts for anyone, it was a success in that I got to hang out with some of my favorite ladies and enjoy sugary things!

confectionately yours

now what to do with a bowl full of chocolate?

15 December 2011

a caroling flashback

Back in the day, when I was in high school, I used to go caroling.  Yup, I was that awesome!  As the holidays (and winter break) approached and the weather got cold and frightful, me and a few girlfriends would get together, get all bundled up and go door to door singing all the classics.  Our harmonies definitely weren't great, none of us were even in choir anymore, and I'm pretty sure we only knew the words to a handful of songs.  But we had the holiday spirit in us, that's for sure.  And we always had a lot of fun, especially when people gave us cookies!  I also remember our after-caroling tradition of going to the restaurant at Five Corners (gosh, what was the name of that place?) and ordering hot, delicious crocks of French Onion soup.  All those brothy onions, toasty bread and melty cheese were the perfect way to wrap up such a festive occasion for a bunch of goofy teenage girls.

I didn't go caroling this year (yet,) but I did try my hand at the soup to put myself in a holly jolly mood.  Thanks to my gal Julia Child, the soup was delicious and I was tipsy (wine for the soup, wine for me!)  I subbed sweet Vidalia onions for her yellow onions and used a combination of Swiss and Gruyere on top of toasty Italian bread.  It was wonderful so, for those of you that aren't fortunate enough to own Mastering the Art of French Cooking, here is the recipe.  And if there's anyone out there who wants to have a bit of a caroling party with me, you know where to find me so please do!

soupe a l'oignon (a la Julia Child, adapted by me)
5 c thinly sliced Vidalia onions
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar (helps the onions brown)
3 tbsp flour
2 qts boiling beef stock
1/2 c dry white wine
salt & pepper to taste
3 tbsp cognac
rounds of hard-toasted whatever kind of bread
grated Swiss & Gruyere cheeses, lots of cheese
1. In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, cook the onions with the butter and oil, covered for about 15 minutes.  Uncover and bring the heat up to medium; stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30 - 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are evenly golden browned.  Sprinkle in the flour and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
2. Stir in the boiling beef stock and add the wine.  Have a glass of wine, don't let it go to waste!  Season the soup with s&p to taste.  Simmer partially covered for about 30 minutes.
3. When ready to serve, after you've sung your little holiday heart out, ladle into a small crock lined with the toasted bread and top with shredded cheese.  Pop in the oven or toaster oven for a minute or two to get that yummy brown look. 

14 December 2011

road trip!

When my sister and I were little, we used to bundle up, grab some hot cocoa, and hop into Aunt Donna's car to drive around in search of the best holiday light displays in central New Jersey.  We would listen to Christmas music and drive around for what seemed like hours of fun, ooooh-ing and aaah-ing at all the houses with colorful lights, moving Santas, dashing reindeer and straight up electric jolliness.  To this day I can't listen to Bing Crosby's "Mele Kalikimaka" without giggling and thinking fondly of our holiday drives.

When I moved down to Baltimore for college, I discovered that all that spectacle that me, Tricia and Donna used to drive around looking for, existed on one street in Hampden!  Miracle on 34th Street brought busloads of tourists down the narrow streets of Hampden to ogle the twinkling lights strung from house to house, lighting up the entire block.  It truly is a spectacle so wonderfully tacky that it seemed only Baltimore could pull it off.  When I left that little town that could, I knew that I'd miss the brilliant holiday magic that my friends and I had when we would stroll down the street, spiked cocoa in hands on a chilly December evening, but I didn't realize how much I'd miss it.  I love cheesy stuff like that and I hate that I can't hop on a bus and head down there to recreate those moments.

Or can I?  Turns out there's a magical little land of Christmas amazingness right here in Brooklyn!  Though I've known about Dyker Heights for a couple of years now, I've yet to make the trip down to check out all the wonderment in person.  Last year I had hoped to get a big group of folks together so we could all bike down there and make a party of it, but it never happened.  I'm still bike-less so I can't make that happen this year but, I really really really want to go indulge in some gaudy, energy inefficient, Christmas consumerism.  Who's up for a road trip?  I'll bring the cocoa, we'll bundle up (or not so much since it feels like it's about 60 degrees out today,) we'll hop on the train or a bus or however you get down to the bottom of Brooklyn and oooh and aaah at all the glittery glitz!  I never feel like my holidays are complete until I somehow keep my tradition... so who wants to help me keep the tradition alive?

13 December 2011

simply having a wonderful christmas time

My mom had a pretty brilliant idea for holiday decorations this year - she framed the lovely green 45 of John and Yoko's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" to hang in the house through the season.  I love the idea of framed albums but I also love taking holiday music and making it more than just awesome to listen to.  I guess I got my crafty genes from Lizzie B.

all i want for christmas is george harrison laying under my tree!

The Beatles used to send a holiday song or piece of art or photo to everyone in their fan club for Christmas but I don't think I've heard any of those tracks.  I'm really only familiar with the solo holiday works that the boys released as Fab Unos.  Then I stumbled upon this article today linking me to all the Christmas tracks ever released!  Thank you Gothamist and rabid Beatles fan, and you're welcome for sharing.

12 December 2011

red & green

Sorry about the delay, anxious readers.  I was sans internet this weekend and too lazy and chilly to walk to the library to give you some holiday updates.  My sincerest apologies... but I'll get you those missing posts today.  You can count on it!

Did anyone notice how cold it got this weekend?  It was cold enough to make me bundle up with knee high cashmere socks, a giant knit cowl, a hat, and fingerless mitten gloves in addition to my normal comfy cold weather clothes.  Weather like this makes you want to stay curled up in bed all day and watch movies with your friends.  It makes you want to order in, but then you don't because your friends are the delivery people and you don't want them to have to ride food over to your lazy ass in freezing cold, windy weather.  So what do you do instead?  Well, I'll tell you what I do - I make soup.  I love making soup because it's so simple, relatively quick and always delicious.  And to make my soup even more spectacular, I Christmas-ed it up by blending the colors of the holiday, red & green.

Using up some forgotten tomatoes that were starting to get mushy in my fridge, a bit of leftover pesto and a splash of cream, I made tomato soup from scratch.  But you can't have a creamy tomato soup without a side of grilled cheese; that would just be dumb!  But since all I had in the apartment was a chunk of slightly stale Italian bread from the grave store, I was forced to get creative with my grilled cheese.  Hence, the open-faced provolone and mozzarella toastie with sliced mushroom meatballs and fresh basil.  Yum!  I love taking random leftovers from my fridge and making a super amazeballs supper.  Especially when it's so cold outside that I don't want to leave my apartment.

creamy tomato & pesto soup
6 ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
2 c water
3 tbsp pesto
1 c heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a medium sauce pan, heat butter and cook garlic and onions until they are soft and reduced.  Add water and tomatoes, bring the mix to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Put the mix through a food mill to get all the good stuff mashed together and return to the sauce pan.
2. On a low heat, bring to a simmer and add pesto, cream and s&p.  Heat to liking and serve.  

09 December 2011

movie theater popcorn balls

In case you haven't already taken notice to the fact that I lovelovelove Christmas, here's some more proof.  I can watch Christmas movies all day, every day.  And no, I'm not just talking about the 24 hour marathon of A Christmas Story (though I could probably make it through the whole day without getting sick of the movie.)  Throughout the month of December, if there isn't holiday music blasting through the speakers, you better believe that there is a holiday movie playing in the background.  And though I may not always take the time to sit down and enjoy every sparkly, heartwarming moment, I've seen most of them enough times to know what to expect and can often shout out random quotes to prove how much I love each movie.  So what Christmas classics have been regulars in my dvd player this year?  Let's have a look -

10. Love Actually  I love this movie.  Like, really really really love this movie.  It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it makes me feel festive and sad and lonely and hopeful and close to people all in the course of 136 minutes.  I would put it up higher on the list because it's so good and the phenomenal cast deserves the recognition but I just can't put those kind of limitations on it.  This isn't just a Christmas movie; it's an everyday movie about love that just happens to take place around the holidays.  Plus it makes me cry too much and I don't like to cry.

9. Gremlins may not seem like the most festive of holiday stories but it definitely takes place at Christmastime and tells the lesson of never giving pets as gifts.  Seriously, you should never give someone a present that requires that much responsibility - that's a chore, not a gift, no matter how cute and cuddly he may appear to be.  Though to be fair, Gizmo is pretty damn cute.  I probably would have given him some late night fried chicken, too.

8. Scrooged  Bill Murray + classic literature = enough said.  Plus how about the post-Ghostbusters tagline - "Bill Murray is back among the ghosts, only this time, it's three against one."  Brilliant!

7. The Muppet Christmas Carol provides yet another take on the classic Dickens story of kindheartedness and love being the most important gift of the holidays.  But this time, with Muppets.  And Muppets are awesome!  Also, I now feel that I have a special connection to Tiny Tim.

6. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is so funny that we put it on at the bar without any sound and find ourselves laughing anyway just because we know what's going on and it's visually hysterical!  Chevy Chase is brilliant at a lot of things and though stringing up Christmas light might not be one of them, bringing out the holiday giggles is certainly on his done and done list.

5. One may argue that the holiday classic A Christmas Story is the end all be all of festive films and deserves to land in the number one slot all the time but I beg to differ.  True, it is a brilliant film with great one-liners, creative characters, nostalgia and feel-good family fun.  But I worry that it's gotten too big for it's britches.  I mean, 24 hour marathons plus daily screenings?  It's all a bit much, so I've knocked it down a few slots.  But it's still one of my favorites and I'll never not think of it when eating Peking duck or changing a tire.  This movie is the second best thing to come out of 1983 (I'm the first, duh!)

4. I recently watched the original Miracle on 34th Street after a very late night of partying with a few friends.  We ate eggs and bacon and drank tea and watched as a precocious little Natalie Wood learned to believe in Santa Claus and Christmas miracles were made for all.  This movie is so classic New York and so sweetly sentimentally reminds us all to keep the faith; it made for a wonderful winter morning with some great people.  It's always a good choice.

3. One of the problems that I am often faced with around the holidays is my lack of cable.  See, I own quite a few of my favorite holiday movies on dvd so I can watch them as many times as my little heart desires.  Other ones I rent or catch online.  This year, all I've wanted to do was order a whole cheese pizza for myself and watch Home Alone.  But could I do that?  No.  It wasn't available anywhere online, it was never on cable when I was visiting someone with cable tv, and of the four stores that I visited to look for the dvd, none had it!  They were even out of it at the few rental places that carry it in my neck of the woods.  Les incompetents!  I'm determined to get a copy by next year because this is truly a Christmas classic and I want to watch it year after year.

2. A combination of sappy sweetness and incredible goofiness that cannot be beat - Elf.  It takes place in New York so I immediately love it.  Every line is quotable and each scene recreatable.  And I love smiling, smiling is my favorite, too!  Will Ferrell is a genius and this is one of the best holiday movies ever... it might even be the best if it weren't for the fact that in a life without George Bailey, Mary is a lonely...

1. librarian!  Yup, I love any movie that features a gal checking out books for a living; even if she's sad and alone on Christmas Eve.  It's A Wonderful Life truly is the ultimate Christmas classic.  It's thoughtful and beautiful and can be enjoyed with the whole family.  I love watching the single showing every year and get a little choked up each time I see it.  Maybe it's expected and maybe it's sappy, but this really is the best story for Christmas and it's my number one.

This was a pretty tough list to compile and honestly, it doesn't just change year to year but day to day depending on my moon.  With that in mind, consider the following flicks to be recipients of an Honorable Mention with some frequent rotation into the top ten depending on my holiday spirit (which today is a little more goofy and comical but can be sad and reflective or bright and hopeful depending on the day) -

* Holiday Inn
* White Christmas
* The Bishop's Wife (I just saw this so maybe it'll move up in the ranks as I familiarize myself with it a bit more)
* Babes In Toyland
* March of the Wooden Soldiers

And before you all get up in arms and throw me down a chimney shoot, the only reason I don't have Nightmare Before Christmas on this list is because no matter how Christmas-y it is, it will always feel like a Halloween movie to me.  That and I watch it year round so it doesn't get limited to the holiday movie box that gets packed away at the end of each season.

08 December 2011

baby, it's cold outside

Finally!  It sort of kind of feels like winter in New York City.  This is the first day in many days that I actually needed to bust out tights, a hat & scarf and a proper wool coat.  I also wore a sweater vest in true librarian chic style (sorry no pic, I forgot my camera at home.)  In honor of the seasonally appropriate temperature (and my girl Vanessa's 30th birthday - love you!) I'll be indulging in one of my favorite winter traditions tonight - a hot toddy!

warm up with a hot toddy -
1 shot of bourbon (Wild Turkey is my fave)
1 tbsp honey
boiling water to fill the glass
orange slices
1 cinnamon stick
1 few cloves
1 star anise
you can add a tea bag if you want a little caffeine boost - 
I like chai because it adds to the spiciness of the drink

07 December 2011

it's a holiday ham party!

What do you mean you've never heard of a Holiday Ham Party?!  When I told my daddy-o about my upcoming Holiday Ham Party, he told me that he didn't think there was such a thing, then Lizzie B flat out laughed at me!  Well, if there wasn't such a thing as a Holiday Ham Party before, there is now - I mean, what else do you call a gathering of wonderful, hungry friends eating a 10lb ham, drinking seltzer and watching PeeWee's 1988 Christmas Special?  Many thanks to the wonderful company of Isabelle, Vanessa, Felix, Victoria and Andrea for coming over and feasting... y'all are my favorite hams!  We also had our wreath lighting ceremony, but I bragged about my awesome bike wreaths yesterday so no need to do it again.  Well, maybe just a little more bragging because you, too can make an awesomely awesome holiday wreath out of tinsel garland and an old bike wheel!  They're fabulously crafty and simply lovely.

It's really easy to make your own "homemade scalloped potatoes" - just add enough extra cheeses, black pepper and paprika.  You can hardly tell that these potatoes came from a box.  The key to semi-homemade anything is flavoring the ingredients that come out of the box or bag or what have you as though you really were making it from scratch, minus the salt - boxed foods already have plenty of that.  If you're dishonest you can probably get away with pretending you actually did spend hours in the kitchen prepping and cooking and slicing and baking, but then Santa would put you on the naughty list and you wouldn't get that Easy-Bake Oven you asked for.

Okay, so I already gave up my secret about the potatoes (thanks again, Betty Crocker,) and I have to be honest about the ham, too.  Ham is always already cooked and cured and this one went a step beyond that - it was pre-sliced and the glaze was a powder that just needed a teaspoon of water and a little heat to be completed.  Give me a break, I cook from scratch nearly every other night, sometimes I need to take the easy road.  Not that it would have mattered because both of my dishes paled in comparison to the beautiful side that Isabelle prepared.  Her Thanksgiving green beans were by far the most talked about (and the most liked on Victoria's instagram.  Even more than my wreath!)  Yeah, you read that right - Thanksgiving green beans.  Her plan was to serve this vegan, gluten-free (you like that, right Felix?) side at Thanksgiving, but it didn't happen so we were lucky and got to indulge in it at the Holiday Ham Party.  The tartness of the dressing was a perfect compliment to the sweet honey ham and the creaminess of the potatoes.  I think she got the recipe from one of the Iron Chef winners or Oprah but I'm not sure, so I'll make her post it later.  I just remember that it had crunchy almonds, gooey chopped dates, tart orange wedges, fresh parsley and mustard - just a few of my favorite things.  I had three servings of these green beans and I want my roomie to make more so that I can eat them every day for the rest of my life!

There you have it - a Holiday Ham Party!  Just like Santa Claus, these festive occasions really do exist and I plan on making mine an annual tradition at the Sweetest Spot.  In case you haven't yet, ham it up this holiday season with a Holiday Ham Party - it's not just so much fun to say, it's fun to do, too!

06 December 2011


i don't even own a vacume - my dustbuster would hate this mess!
I'm a huge proponent of artificial holiday decor.  Yes, I love the smell and feel of a real tree, I love the excitement that comes with going and picking out the perfect one.  But sometimes I'm super allergic to those real live, natural, sappy suckers.  And they're really expensive and messy and despite how green they are, it's not nice to the environment to chop down trees and I don't have the room in my apartment for one... the list of reasons I don't have a real tree goes on and on and on.  It isn't just trees though - the mess exists with wreaths and garlands, too.  So if I can fake it, I will.  Don't get me wrong, I love to have a little bit of real live Christmas magic, but I usually settle for a sprig of mistletoe or a poinsettia plant.  Beyond that, my tinsel tree and bike wheel wreath are enough.  They're awesome also.

If you like riding a bike, and you like Christmas, and you like recycling and crafting things out of random objects, this is the project for you!  Grab an old bike wheel, hub, spokes and all.  Wrap a strand of lights around it.  Maybe toss on some tinsel garland or bows, a bell or two, whatever your little heart desires.  Plug it in and hang it up.  Voila!  Quick and easy holiday cheer with minimal mess and everlasting enjoyability -

05 December 2011

ice capades

gold medal
When I was a little girl, my parents took me and my sister to the ice capades.  It was absolutely amazing and magical and wonderful.  I love figure skating and it breaks my heart that I won't be able to get out on the ice this year.  Not at Wollman Rink, not at Bryant Park, not at Rockefeller Center, not even at the awesomely awesome new ice skating rink at Coney Island, my favorite place in the world.  I love ice skating.  So much so that I dressed up as a jazzy figure skater for Halloween last year, remember?  But seriously, no skating for me this year because I just had to go and break my ankle, didn't I?  Well, my physical therapist told me that there would be no skating, skiing, or snowboarding this winter.  While everyone's out participating in super fun winter sports, I'll be sitting on the sidelines like "Why me?!" Nancy Kerrigan.

capture the dream!
At least it will give me time to perfect my hot chocolate recipe and look like a cute little ski bunny.  There are a few hot chocolate recipes that I've been wanting to work out from scratch - Mexican hot chocolate, lavender hot chocolate, chai hot chocolate, Earl Gray hot chocolate, mochas, mint hot chocolate, cinnamon hot chocolate, you get the deal, lots of hot chocolates. And it doesn't end there.  I'm dying to try making my own marshmallows - flavored marshmallows to compliment the many flavors of hot chocolate I'd like to taste.  But wait, there's more!  Cakes and brownies that taste just like hot cocoa, cookies and biscuits to dip in your mug, the ideas are endless.  Oh, hot cocoa time.  So, until I heal up, I'll have to settle for fixin' up some cocoas, warming myself by a roaring fire place (ok, a steaming radiator,) and watching figure skating tournaments on the weird NBC sports channel that intermittently comes in through my tin foil covered antennae.  When they aren't showing cycling races on that channel, you'd better believe their broadcasting the latest in international skating competitions.  best. channel. EVER!  If the thought of me sipping a Christmas mug full of cocoa, dressed in my snowsuit and boots, watching figure skating (or Blades of Glory because that movie is amazeballs) from the comfort of my couch isn't cute enough for you, maybe this is -

Awwww, kittens watching figure skating!  For those of you who can go skating this winter, have lots of fun, then come visit me for a warm, chocolate-y treat and some company.  Enjoy your holiday skating, kids!