NYC & The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

NYC Taxi

There are few things I love more than visiting New York City during the holidays. To be honest, I love visiting New York any time of the year, but between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, with the city dressed in its holiday best, it’s even more breathtaking.

Central Park turns into a winter wonderland with millions of twinkling white lights blanketing the trees and red bows and mini wreaths adorn the horse-drawn carriages. The department store windows on Fifth Avenue are dressed for the holidays (literally!) and food carts sell roasted chestnuts on every corner. Rockefeller Center transforms into a magnificent display with trumpeting angels illuminating the path to the enormous ice-skating rink and iconic 80-foot Christmas tree below.

In short, it’s magical. And I was over the moon to take an impromptu weekend trip to Manhattan earlier this month.

Below are some of the highlights of my visit. I will share more details in the next post. Hope you enjoy!

Plaza Hotel

Plaza Hotel TreeThe gorgeous tree in the lobby of the iconic Plaza Hotel gave the entire room a soft, golden glow.

We stopped by the Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel for a cocktail before dinner at Gramercy Tavern. The Palm Court is a beautiful dining space near the front of the Plaza Hotel with a domed back-lit stained glass ceiling, plush seats, and a round marble bar in the middle.

Cocktails at the Plaza Hotel

I had a glass of Seven Falls Winery Merlot and B had the House Cider Rules with Don Julio Reposado tequila, agave nectar, lemon juice, fresh apple cider, and cinnamon powder. The House Cider Rules tasted exactly like autumn in a glass. Delicious!

The Winter Village at Bryant Park

The Winter Village at Bryant Park includes a large ice-skating rink and pop up collection of 125 boutique holiday shops featuring artisans who offer everything from local foods, handmade jewelery, and decorative items throughout the holiday season.

Bryant Park Ice Skating RinkThe ice skating rink at the Winter Village at Bryant Park.

We walked by on our way to Rockefeller Center and I couldn’t resist a peek in the holiday shops. Then we took a break on a bench near the Bryant Park tree with a cup of hot chocolate and a full view of the skaters and shoppers whizzing by. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

Bryant Park TreeThe 50-foot tree at the Winter Village at Bryant Park


Holiday Window Displays on Fifth Avenue

Hands down, the department stores’ holiday window displays are one of favorite things about the holidays in New York. Anytime I am in the city between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, a walk along Fifth Avenue is a must.

One of the highlights for me this year are the Tiffany & Co. windows. Tiffany’s created various winter scenes inspired by 1950s/60s New York City, complete with moving figures and meticulously placed iconic Tiffany’s robin egg blue boxes.

Scenes include ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza, enjoying a roaring fire in a high rise with views of the Chrysler Building, and a vintage yellow taxi brimming with the spoils of a Tiffany’s shopping spree (of course). Here’s a peek at a few.

Tiffany's Holiday Window

Tiffany's Holiday Window_1

Tiffany's Holiday Window_2

Van Cleef & Arpels created its own version of winter scenes.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels_Castle

Bergdorf Goodman’s one-word theme for its holiday window display this year is Inspired. The retailer features a series of windows inspired by the fine arts, performing arts, and applied arts. Each window showcases a different aspect of the arts including literature, architecture, theater, painting, music, dance, sculpture and film.

These windows were some of the most extravagant. Among other things, each one featured gorgeous designer clothing and incredible attention to detail.

Bergdorf Goodman_1

Bergdorf Goodman

Bergdorf Goodman_2

Bergdorf Goodman_5

Bergdorf Goodman_3

Bergdorf Goodman_4

Bergdorf Goodman_6
That’s it for now. More from my NYC trip to come soon. I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!

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Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms..
I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I like both separately just fine, but together, it’s something I can’t resist. So when I saw these Peanut Butter Blossoms on a cookie advent calendar, two thoughts came to mind:

Thought #1. Those look delicious and I would like to try making them.

Thought #2. I would also like to meet the ambitious baker who has actually completed a cookie advent calendar. Obviously we would bond instantly over our mutual love of holiday baked goods and I could even help test the recipes (everyone knows calories don’t count in December). It’s a win win for both parties.

So, if you know of someone who has completed a cookie advent calendar, please share. Until then, I’ll have to settle for testing recipes on my own.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups flour (I used whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • About 35 Hershey’s Kisses

Prepare

Pre-heat oven to 375 °F. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat the peanut butter and butter until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat to combine. Then add the egg and beat until completely combined. Slowly add in the flour mixture and beat until the flour has been incorporated and the dough forms.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet. Use your fingers or the back of spoon and lightly push down on each ball to flatten just a little bit and to form a small indentation for the Hershey’s Kiss.

Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Quickly place an unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss in the middle of each cookie and place back in the oven. Bake for 2 more minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before enjoying.

10 Thanksgiving Desserts to Give Pumpkin Pie a Run For Its Money

Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin pie. A warmed slice with a little homemade whipped creamed or a scoop of vanilla ice cream is simply heavenly. And many a Thanksgiving I’ve enjoyed more than one slice with no regrets.

But there are so many other decadent, seasonal desserts that could help add the perfect finishing touch to Thanksgiving dinner. I’m not suggesting abandoning tradition and forgoing the pumpkin pie altogether (that’s just crazy talk), but I think I may be able to find a little space at the Thanksgiving table for one more dessert.  After all, this meal calls for a little indulgence, right?

Here are a few of my favorite dessert options for Thanksgiving, or any cozy, winter meal for that matter.

 Frozen Pumpkin Mousse with Walnut-Toffee Crunch by Bon Appétit

Credit: Bon Appétit

Credit: Bon Appétit

Sweet Potato Cake by Saveur

Credit: Saveur

Credit: Saveur

Butternut Squash Glazed Tart by Food & Wine

Credit: Food & Wine

Credit: Food & Wine

Salted Caramel Apple-Pear Tart by Fine Cooking

Credit:

Credit: Fine Cooking


Sweet Potato Souffle
by Martha Stewart

Sweet Potato Souffle

Credit: Martha Stewart

Pecan Fig Bourbon Cake by Gourmet

Fig Bourbon Cake

Credit: Gourmet

Cranberry Shortbread by Bon Appétit

Cranberry Shortbread

Credit: Bon Appétit

Bourbon-Pecan Pie by Food & Wine

Credit: Food & Wine

Credit: Food & Wine

Persimmon Cake with Crème Fraîche and Maple Pecans by Fine Cooking

Credit: Fine Cooking

Credit: Fine Cooking

Pumpkin Pecan Gingersnap Ice Cream by Saveur

Credit: Saveur

Credit: Saveur

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I’ll be honest, until a couple of years ago, I didn’t really know the origins of Cinco de Mayo or why it is a prominent holiday in the US. If you are like I was (it’s OK to admit it, this is a no-judgement zone), here’s a handy article on the holiday.

Even though I have learned that Cinco de Mayo is not limited to celebrating Mexican culture and food (though I do think salsa deserves its own holiday), I believe there’s nothing wrong with toasting Mexico’s victory in the battle of Puebla with a refreshing margarita.

My favorite is the classic margarita. As you can see, I celebrated a little early with a post dinner drink last night at one of my favorite places in DC, the courtyard at Poste Moderne Brasserie.

Classic Margarita

Though I don’t have the exact recipe Poste uses, here’s a simple one from Bon Appetit.

Enjoy later today while appreciating Mexican heritage, commemorating the battle of Puebla, or simply because it’s Monday.

Bon Appetit’s Classic Margarita
1 ½ oz. tequila
1 ½ oz. triple sec or Cointreau
1 to 1 ¼ oz. lime juice
Salt for the rim of the glass

Shake all the ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker until the exterior frosts. Strain into a glass over ice, or “up” into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.

See Ya Later, 2013!

Sparkling Cava

Cheers to 2014!
And to drinking more bubbly.

The New Year is almost here and along with it is the excitement of new beginnings and a fresh start.

In the past, I’ve resolutely declared New Year’s resolutions (eat healthier! go to the gym! volunteer more often!) only to see them fall to the wayside once the year gets going and the new beginnings/fresh start novelty begins to wear off.

But this year, I’ve (resolutely) decided it’s going to be different. I’m going to set some goals and actually achieve them.

How you ask? Well, I’ve done some research and learned that it’s not that I need to get better at achieving my goals necessarily, it’s that I need to get better at setting goals.

For example, I learned that you are much more likely to be successful in achieving a New Year’s resolution if it is clearly defined, simple, and measurable.

It also helps if you share your goals with friends and family because it makes you accountable to these people. And you may even find support within these groups, which will help even more in achieving your goals!

So below is my list of simple, clearly-defined, and measureable goals that I’m sharing with you.

To make things even easier for myself, I’ve decided to set monthly goals instead of yearly goals. I did this for a couple of months last year and found that short-term goals help me to feel a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I kept the list in a visible place and crossed off each line as I achieved the goal.

January 2014 Goals

  1. Blog for 30 consecutive days.
  2. Start a gratitude journal and list three things daily.
  3. Learn how to poach an egg.
  4. Sign up for and complete one monthly yoga class.

Are you part of the 8% of people who are successful in achieving New Year’s resolutions? What are some of your goals for this year? I’d love to hear how you’re achieving them!