Deck the Halls…

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Spotted in Rural Massachusetts (12/18)

Good Morning and Happy Tuesday! I hope you’re all enjoying this final countdown to Christmas as much as I am- although I have been unusually busy these past couple of weeks! Between finishing up my gift shopping (I only have a couple more things to pick up this week, and once they’re wrapped I am D.O.N.E. with hitting the malls and ridiculous traffic!), get togethers and dinners with family & friends- and non-stop Holiday shenanigans at work (like an ugly sweater party, a decorating contest, a Christmas cookie swap, a company luncheon, etc. etc. The list goes on!)– I’m pretty beat and looking forward to a nice, quiet weekend in the company of my immediate family at my mom’s house.

Posts have been scarce this month, I admit- and with the impending holiday and all the preparations that come with it- I don’t anticipate updating again until after Christmas is over and it’s time to get ready for New Years Eve. I’ve already started drafting my final thoughts for 2016 (and ooooh boy- what a year it’s been) that I’m looking forward to sharing before I head off to my still-semi-secret NYE plans- which I’ll divulge in my “In a Nutshell” post about the year that was. I’m disappointed in my lack of updates, since I had set such high expectations for myself and really wanted to share a multitude of festive things- but much like the rest of 2016 was for a lot of people- things just sort of unexpectedly popped up and sidetracked me.

Until next week, I did want to take a moment to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday. I know this time of year (and really this year in general)– has been pretty tough for many- but I hope you all find ways to feel comfort, joy, and cheer. I hope you’re all surrounded by people you love and who love you right back- and most of all- I hope each of you knows that things will get a little easier and a little better in time.

See you all next week! We can bid farewell to 2016 together!


Natick, MA. (12/18)


Last-Minute Gift Conundrum?

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In what I can only describe as a slightly early Christmas miracle, I’ve not only finished my holiday shopping within a reasonable amount of time- but I’ve somehow managed to get everything wrapped, bagged, and tagged- too! The only thing left to do is enjoy marathoning my favorite Christmas movies (hello, openly weeping at the endings of ‘Home Alone’ 1 & 2!), baking gingerbread cookies at my mom’s house, and drinking eggnog for the next few days until it’s time to make the rounds to hand deliver the goods to my friends and family throughout next week.

Even more impressive than my record-shattering speed at accomplishing this most stressful of holiday traditions was that I was able to put together thoughtful, clever, and fun gifts for my loved ones without breaking the bank- making this year one of my more successful Christmas shopping experiences ever!

But with a little over a week to go before the actual holiday is here and plenty of other people I know still scrambling to get those last minute presents or put the finishing touches on their gifts- I thought I’d offer some helpful tips, tricks and links to make the process a little more bearable and to hopefully assist those of you in a bind for time or ideas so you’ll actually be able to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas instead of spending them rushing from store to store ’til the very last second on December 24th.

There are plenty of brilliant blogs that have gift guides for different types of people and personalities (I plan to compile some of my own guides here on ‘Legally Redhead’ next year!) and those are all well and good when time is not exactly of the essence- but this post is more for those of you who need something and need it now or who are at a loss at what to get those one or two people on your Christmas list who are just impossible to shop for. I’ve been there- plenty of times- and a lot of this advice are things that I learned from my own past holiday experiences!

1. Trim that shopping list:

In the past, I bought Christmas presents for everyone- and I mean everyone. Friends, friends-of-friends, immediate family, family members I only saw once or twice a year, co-workers, my co-workers’ kids, my neighbors, my neighbors’ kids. The list went on and on- and by the time New Years Eve rolled around I was lucky if I had enough money left over in my bank account from splurge spending on everyone that crossed my path to afford being able to go out and enjoy ringing in a new year with my friends.

Keep it simple and trim your shopping list to save yourself a ton of stress from having to find the perfect gift for a ton of people and to save yourself even more money. Immediate family? Sure. Significant other? Of course. Close friends? Absolutely- but when your Christmas list starts to include the dog walker, the cashier at your local market, or that one guy who helped you reach something on the top shelf at Home Goods? Well, you need to take a step back, re-evaluate your shopping budget and figure out who in your life should reasonably be given a present during the holidays.

That’s not to say you can’t do something nice for the aforementioned dog walker, cashier at the local market, or that one guy who helped you reach something on the top shelf at Home Goods- which brings me to tip number 2.

2. Christmas cards are NOT a “cop out”:

There’s an unfair stigma I’ve seen attached to the act of mailing out Christmas cards in lieu of purchasing a gift/gifts for distant friends/family or acquaintances. Maybe it’s because many feel that cards lack a personal touch (ala the dreaded “corporate card”, where a company sends out the same holiday card to each and every employee with a pre-printed or pre-stamped signature and absolutely no indication that an actual person even glanced at it before sending it out) but that can easily be rectified by taking the time to jot down a few heartfelt words on beautiful stationary. Christmas cards are perfect- and a much more affordable option- to give to those you don’t see often, or who you don’t know that well- but whom you still want to know that you’re thinking of them this time of year.

PAPYRUS and The Paper Store have a wide assortment of beautiful Christmas cards and stationary to choose from- either sold individually or in bulk packages. I like to write fun, personalized notes in the cards to send to my cousins or give to co-workers or friends-of-friends (and yes, my mailman, too!) that I occasionally see in passing.

3. When you’re stumped for something completely unique- turn to Etsy:

My circle of closest friends and I have known each other anywhere from 10-20 years, so when it comes to buying Christmas presents for one another- we tend to veer off the beaten path and try to see who can come up with the most bizarre, unique and unexpected gift imaginable (which is much more fun than the conventional gift basket or fruit cake!). This year, when faced with the daunting task of finding something that stood out in terms of creativity but was also something that my friends would enjoy and/or find useful- I turned to Etsy.

It’s no surprise that the internet is filled with tons and tons of immensely talented artists/sculptors/designers/photographers/fabricators/etc. and Etsy is just the most convenient way to search through them all to find that one (or in my case- five) pieces of home decor, clothing, jewelry, art, bath and body products and anything in-between. Thanks to some fantastic shops set up through the site, I found a few video game and horror movie-related items that my friends are absolutely going to flip for when they open them next week- and my purchases helped support those artists, their work and their small businesses.

Seriously- if you’re at a loss for a gift- just start browsing Etsy and I guarantee you’ll find something unique and affordable in time for Christmas.

4. Pay it forward:

If you want to purchase a gift that also serves a greater good, you need look no further than charitable organizations and companies listed through My personal favorites are the companies that participate in “buy one, give one” promotions, like LOVE YOUR MELON– who, with each purchase of one of their really chic and comfortable beanies/caps- donates one to a child battling cancer. There’s also Everything Happy– who donate a blanket to a child in need with each one purchased through their website.

My friends have also purchased products through the Purple Buddha Project. This fair trade organization creates jewelry from fragments of weapons of conflict in Cambodia to raise awareness, and donates nine meals to disadvantaged children in the region with each piece sold.

Those are just a few- but there’s plenty more to check out!

5. “That’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”:

No, I’m not talking about a year subscription to the ‘Jelly of the Month’ club, but I am talking about monthly subscription services where products and samples are shipped right to someone’s door each and every month- like GlossyBox and Loot Crate (which I’m currently subscribed to!)

Many companies offer the option to purchase 3, 6, and 12 month subscriptions to their service/products- either for yourself or as a pre-paid gift to others- and there’s SO many to choose from that no matter what a person’s interests are, there’s bound to be a service tailored to their likes/passions- be it beauty products, food, gamer stuff, clothes, books, music and so much more!

If that sounds like a pretty good gifting idea but you’re not quite sure where to start- I recommend checking out My Subscription Addiction. MSA gives comprehensive and thorough reviews (and promotion codes!) for nearly every available subscription service out there, A-Z- so finding that perfect choice for someone special is made infinitely easier!

And finally,

6. When all else fails – gift cards:

It’s noon on Christmas Eve- and many of the stores are getting ready to close for the holiday. You’re standing there, staring in horror at your Christmas list at the names of the one or two people you vowed to buy a present for this year and realizing that time is out and you’ve got nothing for them…

…. Until you remember that gift cards are super easy and convenient.

Much like mailing Christmas cards, many view simply giving someone a gift card to a store/restaurant/service as “the easy way out”, but I don’t see it that way at all! You’re giving someone the opportunity to purchase something they like, on their own terms- without having to spend their own money. There’s nothing wrong with that at all- it’s actually very thoughtful and considerate- and I can tell you that I have always appreciated and enjoyed every Starbucks, Sephora, dining, etc. gift card I’ve ever received because they’re practical and they’re useful.

The holidays can be stressful- there’s no doubt about that- but I hope some of these ideas are helpful to some. They might not be overtly specific “gift guides for the (insert personality type here)” but these tips/tricks have always helped me- especially this year.

And of course it goes without saying that Christmas isn’t about presents or spending money. It’s about coming together and spending time with those most important to you (and it’s also about peppermint mocha lattes and gingerbread cookies) and taking care of one another- but that also includes taking care of yourself. Don’t get too stressed out with your holiday shopping. Your sanity is important, too.

Good luck!


Christmas in Nantucket

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Although I am no stranger to Cape Cod, often visiting a couple of times every other Summer and sporadically throughout the “off-season” (see: Fall/Winter months), it’s been a really, really long time since I stepped foot on the island of Nantucket. So long, in fact- that I can’t quite remember when it actually was. I obviously must have been little the last time I ventured out that way- because my return trip there near the end of last week to visit my cousin who is currently residing and studying on the island was like seeing the small, seaside community with fresh, new eyes for the very first time.

The great thing about beach communities around Christmastime is that they are rarely, if ever crowded. You can walk down the streets without bumping into a handful of people (or a ton of tourists) at any direction and the shops, restaurants, and attractions that remain open year-round are usually priced much more fairly as opposed to mid-June or July when rates go up as available space in hotels or places to eat go down.

But the best part about visiting a beach community this time of year- and specifically Nantucket, which is just gorgeous in it’s own right with it’s cobblestone streets and very old and historic homes and neighborhoods- is that you get to marvel at the beautiful holiday decor the locals take the time to set up.

After hopping off the ferry from Hyannis and greeting my cousin on the dock- my day on the island was essentially a non-stop walking tour through Nantucket’s historic downtown shopping district, along the waterfront and surrounding docks (where I got to see firsthand exactly how seagulls hunt for food and dear God- is it brutal and fascinating at the same time!), and beside a festive-looking and fully-functioning lighthouse.

The weather was unusually warm and sunny for most of the day (I didn’t need a jacket over my sweater!) which made my visit even more enjoyable since I wasn’t freezing with every step I took.

We also stopped for a delicious early dinner at the Rose and Crown as the sun began to set and the temperatures gradually began to drop little by little and before I had to catch my ferry back to the mainland. If anyone visiting the area stops by- I highly recommend their grilled cheeses and bacon jam baguette sandwich- which is what I ordered and proceeded to wolf down shamelessly since it was so good. I think I’ll have to attempt to make my own one of these days.

All in all, I had a beautiful day. It was wonderful to see my cousin again and spend a good amount of time with her since her initial move there a couple of months ago- and I have fallen completely in love with Nantucket. I plan on visiting again shortly after the New Year and hopefully spending an extended weekend there to do more exploring (and shopping!)

Below are just a few of my favorite photos I snapped throughout my stay- but they don’t do the island nearly enough justice. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful place- and many of the locals I encountered were unbelievably friendly!



Merry Friday!

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Merry Day-After-Christmas and Happy Friday, everyone! I hope those of you who celebrated the holiday yesterday had a wonderful one! While it wasn’t a particularly white Christmas this year (more of a rainy, foggy one where I was,) I still had a great couple of days spending time with some of my family and friends- swapping presents by the tree(s), and eating twice my body weight in Chinese food- as is tradition, of course. Today, I’m heading into my office while it’s empty and quiet to do some last-minute filing and drafting before I take this coming weekend to finish up my last couple of posts for the year (including my usual reflection of the past 12 months and hopes/goals for the coming year,) and prepare to welcome 2015 with open arms next week!

The photos above are a few of my favorites that I took a couple of nights ago while I was out for an evening ride along the back roads of Western Massachusetts. With hot coffee in hand and Christmas music on the radio- I happened to drive through the main street in the town of Ware (“Where?” “Ware.” “No, where?” “Ware.”) Their seasonal display- much like last year when I would frequently pass by while on my way to Amherst and Northampton- is beautifully simple and old fashioned. I couldn’t resist stopping to snap a some pictures before heading back on my way. The wreaths and the trees really light up and bring to life what is otherwise a fairly quiet, darkened street.

I love Christmas decorations (obviously,) and am sad to have to take mine down before the new year- especially my Christmas tree. It’s an artificial one that I’ve had since I was a little kid that is easy to assemble and has miraculously withstood the test of time and sometimes questionable storage techniques. I cherish it, mostly because of it’s history- but for the past few years I’ve been tempted to try my hand at getting a real Christmas tree (I’ve just never gotten around to actually doing it.) I’m hoping next year I’ll finally muster up the courage to face the maintenance and fear of pine needles all over my floor head-on to have the “true” Christmas tree experience!


12/20. My mom snapped this photo of me while we were out at a local greenhouse. I wanted to take that tree behind me home to decorate!

Stay safe, warm, and enjoy the rest of your week (as well as any presents you may have received and leftovers from holiday meals,) everyone!

Top 8 Christmas Flicks.

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With my holiday shopping done (finally!) and a pre-Christmas Sunday dinner with some of my family wrapping up a few hours ago, I’m preparing to unwind for the evening before I begin what will be a short work-week tomorrow morning by watching a couple of my favorite classic Christmas movies. Back in June, I compiled a short list of some of my favorite Summer-centric films that never fail to entertain me and get me into the seasonal spirit- and with us being right in the middle of the most celebrated season of all- just days away from Christmas- I thought I’d put together another list of my favorite Holiday movies.

Now, it wasn’t easy- there are SO many Christmas movies I love and cherish, but I narrowed it down to the ones that I will stop and watch- no matter how far along the movie is when I tune in- and watch until the end, over and over- and never get tired of them.

‘Tis the season- and here are my Top 8 Christmas Flicks!

NationalLampoonsChristmasVacation1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

“And why is the carpet wet, Todd?”

“I don’t KNOW, Margo!”

Of all the Christmas movies I adore, ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ is by far my favorite. Not only does it ALWAYS make me laugh- pretty much every scene, really- but I think nearly everyone at some point can relate to the chaos that ensues when Clark Griswold tries to put together the perfect ol’ fashioned family Christmas for his family. Struggling to get the lights on the exterior of the house to work? Bickering in-laws? Unexpected visits from the more eccentric (and kinda’ gross) family members? Being subscribed to a Jelly of the Month Club in lieu of a Christmas bonus? Squirrels hiding in the Christmas Tree? We’ve all been there in one way or another.

AChristmasStory2. A Christmas Story (1983)

You would think that a movie that gets aired 24 hours straight from Christmas Eve through the end of Christmas Day would get tiresome after a while, but that isn’t the case with “A Christmas Story.” Like Clark Griswold’s mishaps and meltdowns- Ralphie’s quest to get a coveted Red Ryder B.B. gun for Christmas despite his teacher, his mother, and a mall Santa telling him he’ll shoot his eye out is hilarious and stands the test of time.

From the Old Man’s “Major Award,” and the triple-dog-dare by the iced over flagpole, to the bunny pajamas from Hell and Ralphie’s Life Buoy soap punishment- 24 hours never seems like enough time to view this movie. Also? Visiting Ralphie’s house is on my to-do list.

HomeAlone3. Home Alone (1990)

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without watching Kevin McCallister set traps and outsmart two bumbling, idiot thieves while learning about the importance of family. While I’m also a fan of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” (although Child Protective Services really should have intervened and investigated Kevin’s parents after that one,) but nothing will top the original.

Watching Marv shriek in pure terror as Buzz’s tarantula crawls across his face will always be one of my favorite moments from when I watched this movie with my family when I was a kid- but as I get older- I find myself tearing up (in a good way) when Kevin’s neighbor, Old Man Marley, reunites with his son and his granddaughter while Kevin looks on from his window as the snow falls. It gets me every time.

TheHoliday4. The Holiday (2006)

I’m not one for romantic comedies, but “The Holiday” really touches me on a personal level because I connect so much with the character, Iris, played by Kate Winslet. The movie, for those who haven’t seen it or heard of it- follows two women, strangers to each other and frustrated with the complications and disappointments in their love lives- who agree to swap homes for two weeks around Christmastime on an Airbnb style website. Iris ends up in Los Angeles while Cameron Diaz’s character- Amanda- ends up in Surrey, England. Predictably, both women find love, as well as inner-strength while they’re visiting abroad- just in time for Christmas.

A little cliché, sure- but the movie delivers strong performances from Winslet, Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black- and some really great, poignant lines from the late, great Eli Wallach.

MuppetChristmasCarol5. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

I think I’ve seen every possible version of “A Christmas Carol” that has ever been made- but my favorite will always and forever be the one with the Muppets, because they just make everything infinitely better. No disrespect to Bill Murray or Patrick Stewart, who did phenomenal jobs in their roles in their interpretations of this story- but with catchy, thoughtful musical numbers and a Tiny Tim frog with a little crutch that will melt even the iciest of hearts- this is a must-watch for me every year.

And my absolute favorite part of this movie is watching the regal, classy Michael Caine’s (Scrooge) banter with my two favorite Muppets- Statler and Waldorf- who play Ebenezer’s ghostly former associates. It’s the BEST.

WhiteChristmas6. White Christmas (1954)

The oldest movie on this list is also the one that many consider to be the most classic. “White Christmas” reminds me of many things- mostly Christmas Eves or Christmas Days spent visiting at my grandparents’ house when I was a kid and listening to Bing Crosby holiday records playing from their living room. This movie was almost always playing on a television set somewhere in their home, and I would almost always sit down- bundle up in blankets- and watch intently as Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sang and danced their hearts out to save a pitiful inn somewhere in Vermont.

While the story itself might not exactly withstand the test of time, there’s plenty of lovely musical numbers and a much-needed happy ending for all of the characters to keep even the most cynical of viewers entertained and feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

5d4f6f42276b16734fb60709e674e63382730ab57. The Santa Clause (1994)

Before inspiring a couple of unnecessary sequels (and I think may have inspired “Christmas with the Kranks,” which was also unnecessary) that I never had any interest in seeing, there was simply the first “The Santa Clause,” which my parents took me to see in theaters when I was younger . Putting aside the fact that Scott Calvin (Tim Allen,) who gradually and reluctantly transforms into Santa Clause after accidentally killing the original man in the red suit- had the most irritating, whiny son on Earth- the story was, at the time, really unique for a Christmas movie and had plenty of silly jokes for kids and even more “adult” jokes geared towards the grown-ups- which I didn’t get until another viewing when I was much, much older.

NightmareBeforeChristmas8. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

My favorite thing about “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” apart from the animation and the music- is that this movie has the distinction of being both a Halloween movie, AND a Christmas movie. It’s a great combination of creepy and festive. The best scene, following Jack Skellington’s twisted take on delivering presents for Santa Clause, is when the toys come to life and proceed to terrify the living hell out of the human children who received them. The little boy screaming while the gigantic toy snake devours his Christmas tree never fails to get me to laugh- and songs like “Making Christmas,” “What’s This?” and “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” deserve a spot on a lot of holiday playlists.

I love to watch this movie in October, and then again around this time of year because whether it’s Halloween or Christmas- I always feel festive.

And that’s it! Eight of my all-time favorite Christmas movies- a blend of comedies, classics, and childhood memories. Not included are annual specials like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” or the animated version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” since I consider those separate from full-length feature films- but I always make a point to watch those every year, too!

And if anyone wants to share their favorite holiday movies, too- feel free!


“Walking in a Winter Wonderland…”

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Sometimes, in the midst of the chaos that comes with wrapping up cases for the end of the year at the office and wrapping up Christmas presents (assuming you didn’t wait until recently to even start your shopping like, say, me- for example-) it can be easy to overlook the little happenings in the city that make Christmastime in Boston so beautiful. The lights on the trees in the Common, or the storefronts on Newbury Street being decorated to the nines, or hearing children laughing and shrieking as they glide across the seasonal skating rink at the frog pond.

Despite my busy work schedule and attempting to finish the last of my Christmas shopping (I should be done by tomorrow!) I’ve found little things to keep myself from becoming a regular Grinch under pressure and keep my festive, Cindy Lou Who attitude, instead. One thing being my above-pictured red and green manicure (holding a peppermint mocha, of course,) that always gets me in the holiday spirit whenever I look down at my digits.

And as usual, I made a point to pick up some warm, cozy, thermal and flannel pajamas while I was out at the shops, too! Christmas just isn’t Christmas without thermal, fleece, and/or flannel pajamas.


And no evening in warm, cozy, flannel and/or thermal pajamas is complete without a lovely smelling candle burning. I’ve been loving the “Hot Buttered Rum” ones from Bath and Body Works as of late. It’s deliciously Christmas-y and comforting with the distinction of not smelling like peppermint or pine. I highly recommend it to you candle lovers out there!


With only a couple of things left to pick up for friends and family for the holidays, it looks like I’ll be free this coming weekend to enjoy more seasonal scenery. I’ve been thinking of heading to Newport, Rhode Island- like I did last year around this time- or out to Western Massachusetts- or maybe even both!

I’ll just have to see where the rest of this week takes me!

“The Walking Ginger-Dead”

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“The Walking Dead” mid-season finale aired a little more than a week ago, thus beginning the show’s brief hiatus until it’s return in February- and I’m already going through withdrawals. My Sunday nights feel empty and meaningless now, and I find myself curling up in the fetal position- and weeping- when I’m not checking off the days on the calendar until the show comes back (not really, but you know what I mean. I can’t wait for the second half of the season!)

Luckily, I have the upcoming holidays to distract me during the first few weeks of Michonne deprivation. I also have this “Walking Ginger-Dead” cookie kit I picked up in Western Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago to give me my walker fix with a semi-festive (and more delicious) twist. I haven’t made actual Christmas cookies in a couple of years, and it’s been even longer than that since I’ve baked and decorated gingerbread men- so I was excited to give this box full of slightly-morbid fun a try. I even included one of my numerous Daryl Dixon FUNKO figurines to help out while I snapped some photos of the process and finished cookies.


The kit comes with everything: the gingerbread mix, four “walker” molds, white frosting mix, red and black icing, and a bag of multi-colored candy balls for decorating. I only had to scrounge up a minimal amount of supplies on my own (water, butter and honey.)

From there, it was just a matter of mixing the gingerbread, letting it settle and harden in the fridge for twenty minutes, and rolling it flat to make the molds. My Daryl figurine was there to keep a watchful eye on things.




After the shapes were cut from the dough and stuck on a baking sheet, I only had to heat them up in the oven for about 10-15 minutes to get them warm and solid enough for decorating. As always- Daryl stayed vigilant.


Now, I’m no artist, and the decorating process was messy, to say the least- but I personally think the cookies came out rather (and unexpectedly) cute once the icing had dried. It’s hard to make gingerbread men look gory and scary- but I did my best!




The box made a total of ten cookies, and the entire process- mixing, baking, AND decorating- took just under an hour to complete. It was a lot of fun. Maybe not the most Christmas-y confection I could have whipped up, but fun nonetheless! Best of all? The cookies are delicious- although it felt a little weird biting into them when it’s usually the walkers biting into people.

If you’re in the mood to bake some unconventional gingerbread men of your own, or if you’re just as big a “Walking Dead” fan as I am and need something tasty to get you through the hiatus- you can purchase your own “The Walking Ginger-Dead” kit at Amazon for $11.25 by CLICKING HERE!

Thanks for the help, Daryl!


Giving Thanks.

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I come from a big family- with plenty of aunts, uncles, and way too many cousins to count (seriously. I lost count. There’s just so many of them.) Some of my fondest memories- especially around the holidays- are of nearly all of my relatives crowding into my parents’ home for Thanksgiving and the weekend before Christmas for huge dinners and festive parties that extended well beyond my childhood bedtime. Although I can recall only some of the conversations and jokes I’d overheard at those gatherings, I vividly remember sneaking food from the kitchen with my cousins before it had been officially “served,” much to my mother’s dismay- and sitting next to our Christmas tree with my grandfather while we listened to the classic holiday albums my father would play on our old stereo.

As I got older, those gatherings became less and less crowded. Some relatives moved, others became so busy with careers or raising their own families, some simply didn’t get along anymore, and others sadly passed away. It’s all a part of life and the trials and tribulations of family, of course- and although Thanksgiving and Christmas are still a blast to celebrate with the family that still live in the vicinity of where I grew up and whom I still see on a regular basis- I haven’t really had a big festive get together in a long time.

All that changed yesterday, however- when I celebrated Thanksgiving with my mother, aunt, uncle, cousins- and for the first time in eight years- both of my older brothers, their wives, and my niece! My mother’s house was filled with people, food, and conversation- and reminded me of those family gatherings I looked forward to so much when I was a kid. At one point, my brother’s best friend, and who is also a dear family friend I hadn’t seen in years- stopped by, too- which made an already wonderful evening even better.

In a year where I am thankful for so many things and have been blessed in countless ways, I think the thing I’m most thankful for is that my family, once scattered and estranged- are back together again. It feels wonderful, like a hole in my heart has been filled. I wish my dad could be here to be a part of it- more than anything- but I’m sure he’s pleased, wherever he is.

When I wasn’t stuffing my face with the feast that was big enough to feed a small army, or making the above-pictured chocolate truffle with my niece for dessert, I was getting into the Christmas spirit (without participating in the 3 a.m. Black Friday insanity,) by compiling a little playlist of some of my favorite holiday songs from when I was a kid. Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, and others- they’re all on it!

Side note: Even though my parents were pretty lax on my Catholic upbringing- I think the more religion-themed Christmas songs are my favorite. I’ve never understood why. I just think they’re more beautiful than, say, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Anyway- feel free to give it a listen! I’m off to eat leftovers (and will probably be eating them for another week and a half!)



Christmas by the Sea.

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Yesterday, on a bit of a whim, I headed down to Newport, Rhode Island with Troy to spend a day relaxing with no real itinerary in mind, and taking in the scenery. I had visited around Christmastime a couple of years ago and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Last night was no exception, made even more lovely by how unseasonably warm outside it was. At one point, I had shed my winter jacket and was comfortably walking around downtown in just a cashmere sweater- admiring the Christmas lights, the mansions, and window-shopping.

During a stroll on Cliff Walk, after stumbling upon a poor dead dolphin that had been washed up against the rocks (seriously- talk about a bizarre find,) Troy and I ran into a very nice woman visiting from Russia who took a couple of the above photos of the two of us together after she talked about the comparisons between the architecture of some of the mansions along the coast to that of buildings from where she’d grown up, and despite the fact that I pulled ridiculous faces in most of them, I’m grateful she was able to capture a couple of good shots with such an amazing view in the background.

Between the warm weather, the scenery, and the really good company- I think it was just what I needed to help me unwind before the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day rush where I’m (usually) left scrambling to visit family & friends and drop off gifts within a certain amount of time. I can easily see Newport becoming an annual holiday tradition.


And, of course, I couldn’t just end this post without wishing a very Merry Christmas to all of you reading this. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday!


My Holiday Essentials.

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Every season, I try to do an “essentials” post of the things/products that are getting me through the changing weather, temperatures, travels and seasonal activities. With snow falling heavily as I write this, and having attempted on more than one occasion to get some Christmas shopping done over the past couple of weeks (side note: nearly finished!) I thought that I’d forgo a “Winter Essentials” post and create a more festive one, instead.

Here are the things that are currently getting me into the holiday spirit:


1. Anything Gingerbread or Peppermint Scented: In November’s Sephora Holiday Haul, I had picked up two body washes from Philosophy – one in “Spiced Gingerbread Cookie,” and the other in “Peppermint Stick.” Those were just scratching at the surface of what I consider to be my two biggest scent-obsessions this time of year. Also included in my collection are the above-pictured products from Bath & Body Works. From left to right:

“Iced Gingerbread Antibacterial Hand Soap,” which I keep in the bathroom for guests and myself since it smells delicious.

“Twisted Peppermint Hand Cream.” This one stays in my purse. It’s a refreshing burst of mint fragrance that keeps my hands nice and moisturized without making them feel greasy.

“Iced Gingerbread Foaming Hand Sanitizer.” Another purse-product. This foam is pretty strong in terms of the scent, but it’s not harsh on hands the way other liquid/gel sanitizers can be. It absorbs quickly without drying my skin out.

Each time I get a whiff of any of these products, I feel especially cheery.


2. Thermal Pajamas: There is nothing more comfortable than rocking a pair of thermal pajamas and fuzzy socks while wrapping Christmas presents and listening to some Bing Crosby and Perry Como holiday classics, or watching “Home Alone” or “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The ones I’m wearing in the photo above, a long sleeve shirt and matching leggings combination, were a splurge from Victoria’s Secret, and worth every penny. They keep me warm and cozy, and I’m looking into buying another set (or two) really soon.



3. Peppermint Hot Chocolate: I’ve drastically cut back on my caffeine intake as of late (and by “cut back,” I mean I haven’t had any coffee at all in weeks,) which means my beloved peppermint mocha lattes at Starbucks are off limits. I’ve found solace in peppermint hot chocolate, however- which gives me the same great taste without the jitters. Starbucks will always be my favorite go-to for this drink (it’s served at the perfect temperature, and with those little dark chocolate curls they sprinkle in!) but making it at home is easier, less costly, and still tastes just as good.

I make my own in one of two ways- by either melting an actual peppermint stick in scalding hot cocoa and letting it cool before I enjoy it, or, if I’m in a rush to drink it- adding a splash of peppermint-flavored creamer to it to give it a minty kick. Sadly, I do not have those delicious dark chocolate curls- but I find crumbling a York Peppermint Pattie or an Andes Mint on top works just fine.


4. A Festive Sweater: While ugly Christmas sweaters are pretty fun, sometimes it’s nice to just have a festive one- with no bells, fringe, sequins, or poof balls glued or sewn onto it- to wear around the house or to holiday gatherings without having to don a Santa hat to look Christmas-y. Enter this oversized “Home Alone” inspired sweater from (special thanks to Imogen for showing me where to buy it!) that I plan on rocking to the office Christmas party later on this week. I’ve paired it with a basic black skirt and black tights in the photo above, and it matches my annual holiday manicure perfectly. Speaking of, this year’s nail art is snowflake inspired:


“Holiday Essentials” not pictured: Sugar cookie eggnog, evening drives to look at Christmas lights/decorations, making individual and unique Christmas cards for friends and loved ones, sporadically tuning in to the 24-hour marathon of “A Christmas Story” throughout Christmas Day and knowing all of the lines no matter what scene you’re watching, Advent Calendars, setting up and decorating the tree- then trying to keep your pets from destroying it or knocking it over, the annual ‘Toys for Tots’ donation delivery, listening to Christmas music while curling up beside a crackling fire, seeing how excited (and sometimes better behaved) little kids get as Christmas Eve approaches, those Little Debbie Christmas Tree snack cakes that are so bad for you but so delicious at the same time, snow ball fights, the last minute gift shopping trip, and of course- visiting/spending time with family and friends.

What are some of your “Holiday Essentials?”