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Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, eve! Tomorrow morning, I’m hopping on a flight to get my travel on for the holiday break, and just perhaps, I’ll get my dose of freezing cold weather for a few days.

I don’t want to get too cheesy here, but the approaching Thanksgiving holiday definitely makes me think about what I’m thankful for, and this year, my list is a mile long.

I am so thankful for my mom, my friends, everyone I dance with, my kitty Blanche, and well, everyone who has a part in creating “The Daily Show” (this year just wouldn’t have been possible without that).

I am also just generally thankful for my health, my health insurance, and doctors, everywhere. I’m really thankful for my job, for all of my freelance clients, for all of the students who’ve taken my blog class, and for everyone who’s shopped in my Etsy shop – all of these jobs and projects have allowed me to clean up my financial mess, pay off a credit card, invest in hobbies I love, and even do some traveling.

It’s not quite the time to reflect on the entire year (we still have another month to go!), but this year, I’ve lost a lot of people. Some literally, some figuratively, some have cut me out, some I’ve cut out – but I know it’s all part of a bigger plan for each of us. If you’re in my life, it’s because I want you to be, and I’m really appreciative of you.

Of course, thank you for reading my blog. I have been in a weird space with blogging these past few months, partially because of time, and partially because I feel like sometimes this blog does more harm to myself than good.

I have started journaling as a way to get my thoughts out in an unbiased, totally unedited way, and it’s helping me in a way I didn’t expect. I don’t know if those words will ever see the light of day, maybe so, or maybe not. I just know that right now, there’s people watching my every word, and I’m not willing to provide food for their fights.

Regardless, this blog is here to stay. And hey, I am, too.

In the past, I’ve put so much energy into maintaining traditions when it comes to holidays, but I’m finally feeling like I’m coming into my own. I don’t have to do the same thing every year for the holidays – in fact, I can do whatever I want!

I’m not chained to locations, menus, houseguests, or expectant family members. I do what I want – it’s not the life I dreamed of, but perhaps that’s just because I didn’t know the option existed.

So yeah, tomorrow I’m bundling up (with the new John Green book in-tow), and I’m heading out for a few days to indulge, and upon my return to Texas, I’m SO happy to have some time off of work to decorate my apartment for the holidays, catch up on some TV, and work on my Etsy shop.

I hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving – I’ll be posting this week’s Book Club read tomorrow, and I’ve got a special surprise for Black Friday.

Cheers!

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Countdown to Christmas!

We’re a week away from this annual tradition!

Yes, I know, we’re not even to Halloween yet! And trust me, I am so not one of those people that puts up a tree early or listens to Christmas music all year long. I follow the wait-until-Thanksgiving rule… But, the Hallmark Channel does not follow that rule.

And I love the movies on the Hallmark Channel; it’s my guilty-not-guilty pleasure. Each year, the Hallmark Channel shows only holiday movies beginning at the end of October all the way through Christmas. It’s sort of annoyingly fantastic.

This year, the holiday movie marathon, also known as “Countdown to Christmas” begins next Friday, October 27. This Sunday however, they are showing a preview of what’s to come, hosted by Candace Cameron, Jodi Sweetin, and Lori Loughlin (airing Sunday evening at 10/9c).

But, I thought I’d round up a little preview of my own (with help from the Hallmark channel website). The titles in green are the ones I’m particularly looking forward to. Let’s DO this:

MARRY ME AT CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Oct. 28, 8/7c
Stars: Rachel Skarsten, Trevor Donovan
Organizing a Christmas wedding is a true treat for bridal boutique owner Madeline Krug. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect dress for the bride and orchestrating an exquisite event. What Madeline didn’t expect was to be swept off her feet by the bride’s gorgeous brother, movie star Johnny Blake. Jonny came to the quirky town of Fool’s Gold to support his sister — not to fall in love. Yet Madeline is the most extraordinary woman he’s ever met. Planning the perfect wedding leads to candlelit dinners and strolls through snow-covered streets. Madeline finds the real Johnny even more captivating than her celebrity crush. Will the action star be brave enough to take on the role of a lifetime?

CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL OF ICE
Premieres: Nov. 4, 8/7c
Stars: Taylor Cole, Damon Runyan, Wendy Crewson
Those years of law school pay off for Emma but not in ways one would expect. When she finds out that her beloved ice-sculpting contest, part of her hometown’s Christmas festival, has been canceled, she springs into action. Determined to keep it going, she enlists sponsors and artists. Nick, the town’s ace artisan, isn’t interested in competing this year, but Emma wants him as her teammate. Considering what she’s managed to accomplish, Nick is impressed and signs on. As Emma and Nick work together, she realizes there’s more to life than legal briefs. And transformed by Emma’s can-do spirit, Nick is invigorated, too. They just might have a shot at winning this very special Christmas contest — and a lot more.

MISS CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 5, 8/7c
Stars: Brooke D’Orsay, Marc Blucas
Holly Kuhn (D’Orsay) is on her annual mission of finding a majestic specimen for The National Tree. While searching for the perfect Christmas fir for the Washington, D.C. Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony, Holly receives a letter from a boy detailing why his town boasts the most beautiful evergreen. Holly travels to the boy’s quaint New England town, where she meets his handsome uncle, Sam McCary (Blucas). Sam owns the land from which it grows and is a protective steward. It holds such deep meaning for Sam that he’s not about to let it be chopped down even for such an honor. Still, Holly finds herself falling for Sam, and they discover the magic that this perfect tree can bring, just in time for the holidays.

THE SWEETEST CHRISTMAS 
Premieres: Nov. 11, 8/7c
Stars: Lacey Chabert, Lea Coco, Jonathan Adams
When struggling pastry chef Kylie Watson (Chabert) learns she’s made it to the finals of the American Gingerbread Competition, she thinks her competitive spirit has finally paid off and hopes the publicity will help her jumpstart her new café. There’s just one problem — the oven she’s supposed to use breaks down right before the contest. Determined to enter, she reaches out to Nick Mazannti (Coco), her old boyfriend from culinary school who gave up his dream of being a pastry chef to take over his family’s pizzeria. Nick allows her to use his industrial pizza oven at night to craft her ambitious gingerbread confections. As the two reminisce about the dreams of their youth, their romance is rekindled. But just as Kylie is on the cusp of taking the grand prize — and embracing true love — things get complicated when her ex-boyfriend takes drastic steps to win her back. Kylie realizes she must embrace the Christmas Spirit or risk losing both the contest and her new love.

ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 12, 8/7c
Stars: Alexa PenaVega, Carlos PenaVega
Weeks before Christmas, interior designer Laura is sent to her hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico to remodel a landmark hotel. As Laura is kept busy with the renovations, her 8-year-old daughter Nicole is introduced to the art of salsa dancing at a local dance studio. Laura is surprised to find that the studio’s owner is Ricardo, her old high school sweetheart and former salsa dance partner. When Laura and Ricardo reconnect, sparks fly on and off the dance floor. The beautiful Christmas traditions of New Mexico become the backdrop for spirited dancing and unexpected romance.

COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 18, 8/7c
Stars: Danica McKellar, Neal Bledsoe
Allie Richfield is at a crossroads when she lands a job as house manager for the exquisite Ashford Estate in the Virginia countryside. While preparing the place for sale, Allie plans one final Christmas Eve gala for the Marley family, though they seem to be a family in name only. There’s Kip Marley, who never met a party he didn’t like; Robert, the handsome but all-business executor of the estate; Sloane, who arrives with her two young children, sans husband, and the 90-year-old matriarch, Pippa, a spitfire who doesn’t want to put the house up for sale at all. As Allie is inserted into the home and the lives of the Marley family, she finds herself drawn to Robert — even as Kip pursues her. Can she navigate her suddenly complicated love life, while helping mend family feuds and maybe teaching all the true spirit of Christmas?

A GIFT TO REMEMBER
Premieres: Nov. 19, 8/7c
Stars: Ali Liebert, Peter Porte, Tina Lifford
An accident between a sweet bookshop worker and a handsome stranger leaves him without his memory. Determined to help him figure out who he is, she finds herself stepping outside of her comfort zone. In the process, she discovers taking risks can sometimes lead to the greatest rewards.

WITH LOVE, CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 22, 8/7c
Stars: Emilie Ullerup, Aaron O’Connell
Ad executive Melanie is teamed up with uptight coworker Donovan to come up with the ultimate Christmas commercial for a new cell phone. To complicate matters, Donovan is also Melanie’s Secret Santa recipient. When Donovan mistakenly assumes another co-worker is his Secret Santa, Melanie must work to show him that she’s the only Santa for him.

THE MISTLETOE INN
Premieres: Nov. 23, 8/7c
Stars: Alicia Witt, David Alpay, Casey Manderson
When aspiring romance novelist Kim Rossi is unceremoniously dumped by her soon-to-be-published romance novelist boyfriend, Kim takes stock and decides to take a leap. She signs up for a romance writing retreat at a quaint Vermont Inn shortly before Christmas, where a top romance novelist is scheduled to attend and read the work of one lucky writer. Shortly after arriving, she crosses paths with Zeke, whom she initially finds to be intrusive and, naturally, ends up being her assignment partner. Worse yet, her ex is also at the retreat. Despite these bumps in the road, Kim steps outside her comfort zone and plunges into the writing exercises, surprising herself. Equally unexpected is the attraction that seems to be building between her and Zeke that promises to take her down a road she never imagined traveling. Based on the book by Richard Paul Evans.

FINDING SANTA
Premieres: Nov. 24, 8/7c
Stars: Jodie Sweetin
Jessica was delighted to start running her New England town’s Christmas events after her mom died. The main event is the parade on Christmas Day when the jolly man in red greets the crowd. For the last 30 years, Henry, owner of a famous Santa School, played St. Nick. When Henry falls ill, and everyone else he has trained is already booked, Jessica’s in a predicament. The only possible replacement is Henry’s son, Ben, an Uber driver who never wanted to follow in his father big black leather boots. Desperate, Jessica sets off 200 miles north to find Ben and lures him to town by hiring him to drive her back. The trek is daunting; the real Kris Kringle makes it around the world easier than Ben and Jessica on their return. Still, once Ben dons the red suit, he feels the spirit of Christmas — and soon begins to realize he may have found the new, real-life Mrs. Claus.

THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN
Premieres: Saturday November 25th, 8/7c
Stars: Dermot Mulroney, Danny Glover, Joan Cusack, Kimberly Williams-Paisley
David Baldacci’s No. 1 New York Times bestseller comes to Hallmark Hall of Fame: A journalist embarks on a cross-country train ride at Christmas having no idea this journey will take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart as he rediscovers people’s goodness, holiday magic, and a love he thought he’d lost.

Note: I am especially excited about this one since this book has been on my reading list for a YEAR now!

SWITCHED FOR CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 26, 8/7c
Stars: Candace Cameron Bure
Just because they are identical does not mean these twins even like each other. Estranged twin sisters get together for an obligatory pre-Christmas lunch, a year after their mother died. Both women are unhappy and frustrated with their own lives. Though not close, each is envious of the other’s life. What’s a twin to do but take advantage of this? And who would be the wiser? They do what any identical twins in need of new outlooks would do — they swap lives until Christmas Day. And by doing so, each woman discovers the true meaning of her life and gains a deeper perspective and appreciation for what she already had.

CHRISTMAS IN EVERGREEN
Premieres: Dec. 2, 8/7c
Starring Ashley Williams, Holly Robinson Peete, Barbara Niven, and Teddy Sears

Snow globes can have a magical, mesmerizing sway over those who concentrate on them. No one knows that better than residents of Evergreen, Vermont. In this bucolic burg, where families have lived for generations and take care of each other, there’s a belief that if you wish upon the snow globe in the local café, that wish will come true. The only catch is the wish must be completely sincere. When the town veterinarian wishes that this will be her most romantic Christmas ever, she figures that will happen with her longtime beau. Stranded in an airport, she befriends a businessman and his daughter, who had made her own wish on the snow globe. The magical Christmas they share turns out to be more than anyone wished for.

CHRISTMAS AT HOLLY LODGE
Premieres: Dec. 3, 8/7c
Starring: Alison Sweeney
Sophie Bennett begins a new holiday tradition of spending every holiday at the Evergreen Inn and Ski Lodge, which she inherited from her parents. Evergreen Inn is a special place filled with people who cannot make it home for the holidays or who have had such wonderful experiences that it has become their home-away-from-holiday-home. This Christmas, Sophie will meet an unforgettable family, and her own life will be forever changed.

CHRISTMAS ENCORE 
Premieres: Dec. 9, 8/7c
Stars: Maggie Lawson, Brennan Elliott
A struggling actress is cast in her last off (off) Broadway show – a modern take on “A Christmas Carol” – before giving up her dream and moving home. Instead, she finds romance with her director and a renewed passion for her craft and the city. But when the historic theater loses its lease and the show is set to fold, she and her cast mates are need of a Christmas miracle.

THE CHRISTMAS SHOP
Premieres: Dec. 10, 8/7c
Anna works for a New York City real estate development company that is trying to buy an old building in a prime location, hoping to flip the property for a profit. Unfortunately, there is one tenant holding out—-the owner of an old-fashioned Christmas shop. Anna has been hoping for a way to step up in her job, and finally she’s been given the golden opportunity to take point on this assignment. Anna approaches the Christmas Shop’s handsome owner, Michael, who is not only protective of his family’s legacy but appreciates what the holiday means to everyone. But with sinking profits, Michael finally gives in to Anna’s attempts to change his mind. Anna will spend one week working in the store, and after that, if she doesn’t realize why this shop is so important, they can talk. When Anna’s company finds out about what’s going on and her career is on the line, she is forced to make a choice, one that will change her forever and make this one of the best Christmases she has ever had.

FATHER CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Dec. 16, 8/7c
Work-obsessed Eric Randall, chief technology officer of a major tech company in Kansas City, is laid off two weeks before Christmas. Divorced and the father of three, this will be Eric’s first Christmas alone with the kids. His ex-wife, Marie, encourages Eric to postpone a job search and instead make Christmas a true family holiday. Unfortunately, he’s better with computers than children. With baby Max strapped into a backpack, Eric is determined to build a sled with son Liam, no small feat for the math-challenged boy. Eric also gets roped into volunteering at daughter Chelsea’s junior cotillion class. At least her teacher, Kate Moore, is lovely. Kate teaches Eric some dance moves, and Eric realizes he’s avoided relationships by burying himself in work. Though enthralled with all old-fashioned romance, Kate finds a lot to like in this digital-age dad while Eric learns that family time does not need to be restricted to Christmas.

CHRISTMAS CONNECTION
Premieres: Dec. 17, 8/7c
It’s not easy being Henry, the only child of divorced parents. Every Christmas, he’s flown cross-country to be with his dad. Because he’s 8, a flight attendant looks after him from gate-to-gate. Henry instantly takes to the engaging Megan, who wears a Santa hat while helping him write a letter to the jolly guy. Megan promises to mail it to the North Pole, but slips the note to Henry’s dad. Henry has already decided Megan and his dad would be a great couple. And with all of the sophistication of a little boy, he tries setting them up. It turns out that Megan has no plans for Christmas dinner. Naturally, Henry invites her over, giving the adults a chance to see that they are perfect for each other.

CHRISTMAS GETAWAY
Premieres: Dec. 23, 8/7c
Travel writer Emory has never had a traditional Christmas. Although her free spirit makes her the perfect travel writer, a surprising breakup with her boyfriend takes her personal life back to square one. Hoping to spend the holiday relaxing and recovering, Emory takes the picturesque Christmas vacation planned for the two of them, alone. Through a mix up on the rental site – or maybe a little Christmas magic – Emory is forced to share the cabin with a handsome widower, his young daughter, and mother-in-law. What begins as an annoying inconvenience blooms into a romance she never knew was possible, and a Christmas they will cherish forever.

A ROYAL NEW YEAR’S EVE
Premieres: Dec. 30, 8/7c
That first kiss of the New Year is special: It’s supposed to signify that special person with whom we’ll spend the next year, and possibly, forever. So it’s wise not to squander those affections. When everyone else just puckers up to the nearest set of lips, Robin has always kept her wits — and her mouth — to herself. An established photographer at a lifestyle website, she’s assigned to work on a New Year’s Eve story with a new hire, Todd. When she confides in Todd that she has never kissed anyone as the clock strikes midnight, he sets about to correct this, by finding someone for Robin to kiss at the magic hour. His theory is a kiss is just a kiss, and she should enjoy the moment. Ultimately, they are both right. Todd finds a man for her to smooch, and Robin does find the right man. And guess who fits the bill?

Obligatory Valentine’s Day post.

These are the right kind of candy hearts.

These are the right kind of candy hearts.

It’s Taco Tuesday!!! …And also Valentine’s Day. Honestly, I kept forgetting that Valentine’s Day was coming around this year, which is one reason why I didn’t partake in my semi-tradition of making and mailing Valentine cards. I’ve been pretty busy with my new job, working out seven times a week, and watching lots of TV, per usual.

When I saw it on the calendar as I was planning my blog posts, I pondered for about two weeks on whether I should write something about this holiday or not. Why? Because I’ve written about it for the last ten years – why stop now?

Last year, I wrote about “How History Screwed Singletons“, but I also concluded that although I didn’t have a romantic partner, there were things – material things that I loved – so I also wrote about that. Want to know a little secret? Last year, I was totally, completely heart-broken.

In 2015, I wrote “Even Singletons Have Love“, because not all love has to come from a significant other (which is totally true). In 2014, I wrote “A History of Valentines” looking back at all the ways I’ve spent the holiday (really sad), and I also wrote a “Survival Guide: Single on Valentine’s Day“, because I know there have been some years I really just wanted to be in a black hole for 24 hours.

I’ve written a lot about the relationships of my past, and how my February 14ths ended up because of them – there have been years of complete content, some years have seen love, and others have seen me on my own living room floor, crying, and overeating chocolate cupcakes.

In 2013, though, it was a champion year in terms of Valentine’s Day, when I purchased a $6 heart-shaped pizza from Papa Murphy’s and enjoyed it, by myself, with a bottle of wine. You can read all about my philosophy that year in “The Heart [Pizza] of Matters“.

So, this year, I can truly say, I don’t even care. I have finally reached the pinnacle of my existence and am fresh out of fucks when it comes to men, dating, sex, and Valentine’s Day. I do believe this is actually what I’ve always wanted: to not be sad, not be wearing black, not be pretending to be happy and going out anyway, not be celebrating my singleness with wine and takeout… but instead to just be how I am every other single day.

Now could I go for a box of chocolate truffles or a heart-shaped pizza? Yes, because I’m on a hardcore diet and would eat juuuust about anything right now. But instead I will probably eat leftover vegan tacos I made this weekend (seriously delish, recipe here), and drink a sparkling water because YOLO.

On Saturday, I went to my local library for an event I’d marked on my calendar: A Romance Reader’s Social. I didn’t even link the fact that this was probably timed as a celebration of Valentine’s Day, until I arrived and saw all of the red and pink decor.

Nevertheless, I waited in line amongst retired women whom, I imaged to be of the sort that sat in well-worn recliners and read stacks of romance novels week after week.

Attendees were treated to cupcakes and heart-shaped cookies, several craft stations, and tables full of books and their authors available to sign copies. There was also an author’s panel where they discussed writing routines and answered questions from the audience.

I was alone, as I often am, and for possibly one of the first times, I didn’t feel awkward about it. I jumped into the crafts, and made a Valentine card using patterned washi tape, and I also colored a page from an adult coloring book that was of a scene from a romance novel – a hunky dude embracing his lady – and his shirt is ripped off. It’s pretty awesome, and it’s currently hanging on my fridge (you can get your own coloring book here, you know, for your next ladies’ night).

I don’t have a map of how I got to this point, but if I had to guess, it’d be the perfect balance of sleeping with men who don’t care about me, and as a result, learning to take charge of my life via a rewarding career and awesome hobbies. And, well, listening to lots of Drake.

 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas…

You're the Charlie Browniest.

You’re the Charlie Browniest.

You guys! It’s Christmas Eve, EVE! I just got inside from vacuuming out my car with a little car vac I got for Christmas earlier this week – its gold, and it has little attachments so you can get every nook and cranny, and it even has a pressure gauge so you can air up your tires!

You see, I celebrated my Christmas on Wednesday, when my mom was in town. She got in late Friday night, and we did a whirlwind of Christmas activities, despite it being bitterly cold in Austin. She helped me with some last minute gifts, we stomped down Austin’s Trail of Lights, saw a hockey game, ate Vietnamese food (yummm), saw “La La Land” (more on this later), and watched several Christmas movies.

She had to leave yesterday, so we had our traditional Christmas Wednesday, so now I’m left “playing” with my Christmas loot – like a car vacuum, eyeing my new collection of glass tupperware, and eating bags of sour gummy cat heads. Because that’s what Christmas is all about, right?

I haven’t decided how I’ll spend ACTUAL Christmas day yet, although I have tons of food in my fridge + a few bottles of wine, so I may just get boozed and allow myself to watch one more round of Christmas flicks before I put them away for the year. I do have some gifts from friends that I have yet to open, so I have that going for me.

I don’t have to be back at work until Tuesday, so I’m really looking forward to a few more days of rest and random scheduling – I took a nap yesterday and have already taken one today! It’s all the same things I enjoyed about Christmas break as a kid, really.

I have a small to-do list – some are chores, and some are things like “Read the 2 books on my counter before they’re due back to the library on the 27th”. Whoops!

What are you guys planning to do over the holiday? Whatever it is, I truly hope you get the Christmas (or Hannukah) you’ve been dreaming about this year. I know we could all use some happy times, and probably some laughter, and even a little rest. So, may all of those things come your way + some cool gifts, because even though that’s not the reason for the season, it sure doesn’t hurt!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

And yes, I’ll be right back to regular posting on Monday, although I’m 99% sure “Mariah’s World” isn’t airing Sunday night, I know I’ll have something else to blog about. See you then!

Christmas traditions, new & old.

I've always left cookies out for Santa!

I’ve always left cookies out for Santa!

A few months ago, my boss requested the entire office figure out their holiday schedule so we could make sure all of our clients had coverage (#AgencyLife). I was sitting at a table in our office lounge with a few of my coworkers, when one of them asked me if I was traveling home (to Indiana) for the holidays.

Umm, no, I told her.

She gave me a semi-disgusted look, followed by a sharp tone: “So, do you just never see your family?”

My coworker is from Chicago, and recently moved to Austin with her husband. For every single holiday, they use precious PTO days (and weeks) to travel home to see both sets of parents.

While I respect the closeness of their family, it made me wonder why her and her husband didn’t have a desire to start their own traditions. Especially when we live in such a cool city!

I haven’t lived in Indiana for 13 years. For the first few years, I traveled home for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, and it was always fun, but it was also expensive and very tiring. Once I started staying in Louisiana, and now Texas, I found I can start my own traditions with my friends here – or even hosting my friends and family here.

Sure, as a kid, my family celebrated the holidays with traditions we’d formed over the years – some things as small as making sure each stocking had an orange and nuts in it – and some as big as traveling to certain states. And while old traditions are really fun, I think it’s pretty cool to start new ones.

All of this got me thinking a lot about traditions – everyone has their own and they all help them celebrate the holidays in different ways. So, I reached out to my friends on Facebook to see how they celebrated the holidays. Here’s what they said:

  • We watch “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” every Thanksgiving 
  • Every New Year’s, we watch the complete Star Wars series and eat junk food. We have done it since I was born, but we have to start at 10 am
  • Every New Year’s Eve, we take our Christmas tree to the center of the backyard, load it with fireworks and light it on fire! We’ve been doing this for at least 20 years. 
  • As you know, my dad is a hunter. Since we own land, our Thanksgiving dinner would often consist of what my dad killed that morning. 
  • On Christmas morning, we always have homemade cinnamon rolls and mimosas. My mom makes the cinnamon rolls from scratch and I make the mimosas!
  • Growing up, we would always eat fondue on New Year’s Eve. 
  • My sister and I always open our gifts to each other on Christmas Eve, and open all other family gifts on Christmas day. 
  • When i was younger all of the women used to have a cookie exchange. Everybody would make a different kind of cookie, put them in individual bags for everyone to take home leaving enough to eat at the little party, and we would all spend the evening eating cookies and drinking coffee and milk it was an amazing tradition!
  • We have a Swedish Tea Ring for breakfast, made the day before from the recipe in the circa 1950 edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook. We’ve made this thing for like 40 years or something, collectively. I’ve been making it since I was a kid. Still, no one has memorized or rewritten the recipe and we have to pull out that old crumbly book every year.
  • My mom still has boxes from gifts me and my sisters got upwards of 20 years ago, and she reuses them for gifts every single year. She still has the box my 8th grade 5-cd-changer stereo came in. It’s kind of a running joke when we open a classic box, such as the box for the “digital” alarm clock I got in 5th grade. That box is so janky, but it keeps coming back.
  • On Thanksgiving we open our house up for the military members that didn’t get to go home for the holiday. On Christmas Eve I round up my minions to bake cookies to put in their stockings. 
    …How cool, right? I’d love to hear what some of your traditions are, whether they’re ones that have always been with your family, or ones you’re hoping to start!

My grownup Christmas list.

Naturally pretty.

Naturally pretty.

This isn’t about the Christmas song entitled “Grownup Christmas List”, where the singer (it’s been covered by many different ones over the years) wishes for world peace, healed hearts, togetherness, love, and friendship. Of course, I want ALL of those things + some.

But, today I’m talking about my material Christmas list – what I sent to Santa. I didn’t think much about what was on the list until one of my friends told me she laughed at what she told her parents to get her – “grownup things”. Hmmm, I looked over my list. It sure looks different from the lists I wrote as a kid, but I’m okay with it, and I’d venture to say I’m just as excited about these items as I was then. So, here’s what I asked for this year:

Lighted Mirror – For daily use, I’m good with my standard bathroom mirror. However, when I need to pluck my eyebrows or stare at my pores, I need more lighting! I also want something I can use pre-performance; I’ve learned by now that the lighting backstage is subpar. Here’s a portable light up mirror from Conair.

“Cravings” by Chrissi Teigen – If you’ve been following Ms. Teigen on Instagram over the years, you KNOW she is always whipping up something so delicious, it makes you wonder just how she keeps that model body. Amirite? According to the book’s description, her first cookbook has got recipes from fried chicken and Thai classics to breakfast and salads. Grab your copy here!

Birchbox Subscription – I’ve had a subscription to Birchbox for a few years now, and I can’t imagine my life without it! Each month, I get a small box that contains at least five luxury samples, based on my custom profile. This way, I can try beauty and lifestyle products before I decide to buy them. Over the years my Birchbox has sent me candles, perfume, hair care products, makeup, and nail polish, among other items. It’s a fun thing to get in the mail each month! Subscribe, or gift a subscription to your favorite guy or gal, here!

Glass Food Containers – I don’t know about you, but I’m freaking SICK of plastic tupperware containers. I pack my lunch five days a week, and I don’t think my little containers ever get as clean as they could be, and who knows what sort of chemicals go into my food when I pop the plastic sucker into the microwave. I’m ready to upgrade to glass, even if it means a heavier lunchbox. Here’s a set of various glass containers and lids from Glasslock.

“Hatching Twitter” by Nick Bilton – I’m teaching a course on Twitter Tips in March and I’m trying to learn as much as possible about the platform before then. I stumbled across this book by listening to a podcast, and cannot wait to read it! Supposedly, there was a lot of greed and betrayal in creating Twitter, and this is the first book to spill the beans. Get your copy here.

Donut Baking Pan – I always see the cutest donuts when I’m scrolling through Instagram, and while most of them are from bakeries, why not make them at home (and make them a tad healthier)? With my very own donut pan, I can turn all sorts of flavors into delicious donuts! Here’s a pan that fits one dozen of the yummy suckers.

Various Facial Masks – If you follow me on SnapChat (@OrangeJulius7), you know I love to test any kind of face mask – sometimes multiple in a single night! I really like to live on the edge 😉 I am always looking to expand my collection of face masks to keep my skin looking fresh. Here’s a pack of 11 sheet masks I found for just $10!

Over-Ear Headphones – You probably know that I’m OBSESSED with podcasts (and recently downloaded the Sirius XM app), and I listen to them all day long at work. Well, earbuds are starting to really hurt my ears, so I need a solid pair of earphones that block outside noise. Check out these cool white ones.

Various Makeup Sponges – I know the Beauty Blender is ALL the rave, but I like to try different things when it comes to makeup. And life. For awhile I was going with the brush sets to apply makeup and now I want to see if there’s a good sponge that will work better. Here’s a pack of various-shaped sponges, for just $5!

Rechargeable/Battery-operated Vacuum – I’ve lived in an apartment for 9 years, and one of the biggest downfalls is not being able to plug in your regular vacuum and use the attachments to clean out your car. Amirite? Because it’s like $10 to use the vacuums at the car wash. So, I need a portable vacuum. Here’s one that plugs into the cigarette lighter – smart!

…And there you have it, my Christmas list! I’d love to know what you all are wishing for this year, too!

Get your {Holiday} bake on!

Let's get this delicious party started!

Let’s get this delicious party started!

When I was a kid, my dad and I baked quite a bit when the holidays rolled around. Ok let’s be honest, he probably did most of the baking while I did the subpar decorating and taste-testing. Nonetheless, it was a tradition that I remember fondly.

We made red and green m&m cookies – at that time they were sold in the cookie dough rolls. And we made a slew of sugar cookies, which we used cookie cutters with, and then decorated them with icing, sprinkles, and red hots. We had a giant ceramic Santa cookie jar to store them. One year we made a gingerbread house with snowmen made from popcorn balls.

Since then, I have always looked forward to spending many hours in my kitchen, baking up something tasty for the holiday season. But, I’ll be honest, there are many times I set myself up to bake all sorts of different treats, and then realize I’m in way over my head, and I get frustrated.

Which is why this year, I’m starting early, and I’m freezing my treats along the way, so at the end of the road, I’ll have batches of different goodies to ship off, share, and of course, eat!

Two weeks ago, I made shortbread cookies dipped in milk chocolate, and mailed them to Indiana. And then I decided to make a list of all the things I wanted to bake this year. Here’s what I’ll be whipping up:

Dipped Gingerbread Cookies

Sooo pretty!

Sooo pretty!

I actually got this idea from reading the Big Lots’ Blog! I love a bargain, and Big Lots is always offering tips on DIY projects. I saw these cute cookies and they looked fairly easy to create at home.

For these cookies, you’ll need 1 box of gingerbread cookie mix (I got this one), 3 cups of white chocolate chips, 3tb of shortening, and colored frosting (if you want to decorate them) – sprinkles would be a good choice, too!

Follow the directions on the cookie mix, and let the cookies cool completely.

In a bowl, add the white chocolate chips and the shortening, and microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring along the way. Do this until the chocolate is slightly runny.

Dip each cookie into the white chocolate mix, and lay on parchment paper to set. Let set and decorate with frosting. If you’re using sprinkles instead, sprinkle before the white chocolate sets completely so they will stick. Ta-da!

Snickerdoodle Blondies 

I would have never put a Snickerdoodle on my list for holiday baking, until I watched one of the “What’s Gaby Cooking” snapisodes last week. These looked sooo yummy, and easy, to top it off – are you sensing a trend yet?

What's Gaby Cooking is keeping it DELISH!

What’s Gaby Cooking is keeping it DELISH!

For the Snickerdoodle Blondies, you will need 1 cup melted butter, 2 cup light brown sugar, 4 teaspoons Vanilla Extract, 2 large eggs, 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoons Ground Cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. For the topping, you will need 1/4 cup of white sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine the melted butter and brown sugar and mix with a wooden spoon or paddle attachment for 1 minute until combined. Add the vanilla and eggs, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix until fully incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients into the bowl/stand mixer, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda and slowly mix until just combined. The batter will be a bit stiff, but that’s normal.

Spray a 9×9 baking pan with baking spray and line it with parchment paper. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top and transfer it into the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Once the blondie brownies have baked, remove them from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving.

I made these last weekend, and I’ll be honest, mine kind of turned out more like coffee cake, but hey, who doesn’t love coffee cake?

Chocolate-covered Spoons

Festive & yummy!

Festive & yummy!

I have always wanted to make these, primarily for hot chocolate, but honestly, I think they’d be good in a cup of coffee, or warmed milk (or Almond milk, of course!).

To make these spoons, you need heavy-duty plastic spoons, or even wooden spoons. Then, get semi-sweet chocolate chips, and/or white chocolate chips. You can melt them on your own, or mix them with heavy cream or shortening if you want.

The only other thing you’ll need is toppings (optional)! I got red and green sprinkles, crushed peppermint candy, and red and green icing. I also have some leftover cinnamon chips, and I think I may attempt to add a little peanut butter to a few spoons.

You could really put anything on top – marshmellows, crushed toffee, cookie bits, or anything that would taste great melted in coffee or hot chocolate (or eat while drinking a glass of wine, let’s face it). To make the spoons, you simply dip the spoon in the melted chocolate, then add the toppings before it cools completely. Let these cool on wax paper, and you can package them using festive clear bags and ribbon. I’m really excited to make these!

What are your baking traditions around the holiday, if any? Planning on making anything new this year? I’d love to hear what’s happening in your kitchen this holiday season. P.S. We’re expecting snow flurries in Austin today! Perfect reason to hole up inside if you’ve got the option 😉

BBC: Holiday Reading Guide.

Nothing like reading by the fire.

Nothing like reading by the fire.

I’ve always thought it would be so cool to be reading a book with a holiday or Christmas plot, during the ACTUAL season. But that would involve planning, and actually being on top of things, right?

Well, this year! This year, I put my tree up much earlier, started watching seasonal movies much sooner, and hey, I might just be on top of it this year!

So, I’ve created a list of books that have a plot surrounding the holidays, in case you’re looking for something festive, aside from children’s books or the classic, “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham (but if you haven’t read it, you should).

If holiday reading isn’t your style, feel free to hop over to my Fall Reading Guide – where there’s still some pretty cool reads waiting for you.

“Christmas Letters” by Debbie Macomber – Of course, Debbie Macomber has several books circling around the holidays, but I picked “Christmas Letters” because I thought it sounded a little different. Here’s the book’s description:

Katherine O’Connor often spends her days at a cozy café on Blossom Street in Seattle—where she writes Christmas letters for other people. She’s good at making their everyday lives sound more interesting. More humorous. More dramatic.

But for Dr. Wynn Jeffries, who also frequents the café, Christmas means lies and deception. In fact, the renowned child psychologist recommends that parents “bury Santa under the sleigh.” Katherine, however, feels that his parenting philosophy is one big mistake—at least, based on her five-year-old twin nieces, who are being raised according to his “Free Child” methods.

She argues with Wynn about his theories, while he argues that her letters are nothing but lies. They disagree about practically everything—and yet, somehow, they don’t really want to stop arguing. As the days—and nights—move closer to Christmas, Katherine and Wynn both discover that love means accepting your differences. And Christmas is about the things you share….

Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, & Maureen Johnson – I’m kind of really disappointed in myself for not reading this one yet – but I had no clue John Green had any sort of part in a holiday book! Here’s the scoop on “Let it Snow“:

Three interconnected stories from three bestselling authors: John Green (Paper Towns, The Fault in our Stars), Maureen Johnson (The Name of the Star), and Lauren Myracle (The Internet Girls series.)

Major motion picture in the works!

A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

“Winter Street” by Elin Hilderbrand – I saw this on a list on GoodReads and thought it sounded most like the holidays – because what’s the holiday season without a story of family dysfunction? Here’s the description for “Winter Street“:

Kelley Quinn is the owner of Nantucket’s Winter Street Inn and the proud father of four grown children: Patrick, a hedge fund manager; Kevin, a bartender; Ava, a school teacher; and Bart, who has recently shocked everyone by joining the Marines. As Christmas approaches, Kelley looks forward to spending the holidays with his family at the inn. But when he walks in on his wife Mitzi kissing another man, utter chaos descends, and things only get more interesting when Kelley’s ex-wife, news anchor Margaret Quinn, arrives on the scene.

Before the mulled cider is gone, the delightfully dysfunctional Quinn family will survive a love triangle, an unplanned pregnancy, a federal crime, and endless rounds of Christmas caroling in this heart-warming novel about coming home for the holidays.

“Christmas Jars” by Jason F. Wright – I’ll admit, I saw the cover of this online and it got me to click for the description, which sold me. Here’s the scoop on “Christmas Jars“:

Rising newspaper reporter Hope Jensen uncovers the secret behind the “Christmas Jars” glass jars filled with coins and bills anonymously given to people in need. But Hope discovers much more than she bargained for when some unexpected news sets off a chain reaction of kindness and brings above a Christmas Eve wish come true.

“The Christmas Train” by David Baldacci – I pretty much cannot pass up a story about a journalist, but this one really had me with the added train ride. I took a train from New Orleans to Chicago a few years ago, and it was so much fun! I’m always down for a good story, especially when it includes a “ridiculous cast of characters”! Here’s the description for “The Christmas Train“:

Tom Langdon, a weary and cash-strapped journalist, is banned from flying when a particularly thorough airport security search causes him to lose his cool. Now, he must take the train if he has any chance of arriving in Los Angeles in time for Christmas with his girlfriend.

To finance the trip, he sells a story about a train ride taken during the Christmas season. Thereupon begins one of the most hilarious-and heartwarming-journeys ever told. Along the way, Tom encounters a ridiculous cast of characters, unexpected romance, and an avalanche that changes everyone’s Christmas plans. As the mighty Southwest Chief chugs along, Tom learns what really makes the holiday special in a remarkable novel that will charm all who read it.

“Dashing Through the Snow” by Mary & Carol Higgins Clark – This one’s for the mystery lovers! I couldn’t make my holiday reading guide complete without a little secret adventure to tackle, right? Here’s the scoop on “Dashing Through the Snow“:

From beloved mother-daughter duo Mary Higgins Clark, America’s Queen of Suspense, and Carol Higgins Clark, author of the hugely popular Regan Reilly mystery series, comes Dashing Through the Snow, a holiday treat you won’t want to miss.

In the picturesque village of Branscombe, New Hampshire, the townsfolk are all pitching in to prepare for the first (and many hope annual) Festival of Joy. The night before the festival begins, a group of employees at the local market learn that they have won $160 million in the lottery. One of their co-workers, Duncan, decided at the last minute, on the advice of a pair of crooks masquerading as financial advisers, not to play. Then he goes missing. A second winning lottery ticket was purchased in the next town, but the winner hasn’t come forward. Could Duncan have secretly bought it?

The Clarks’ endearing heroes — Alvirah Meehan, the amateur sleuth, and private investigator Regan Reilly — have arrived in Branscombe for the festival. They are just the people to find out what is amiss. As they dig beneath the surface, they find that life in Branscombe is not as tranquil as it appears. So much for an old-fashioned weekend in the country. This fast-paced holiday caper will keep you dashing through the pages!

And there you have it, Blache’s Book Club’s Holiday Reading Guide. Of course, there are tons of novels that have Christmas at the centerpoint of the plot; these are just a few. Got a favorite? I’d love to hear it! Happy Reading!

‘Insecure’: Broken as F**k.

The season finale of 'Insecure'!

The season finale of ‘Insecure’!

Monday is baaaack! Omigosh, I hope you all really had a fun and delicious holiday weekend. I was so excited for Thursday to come, and I got up early, watched the parade, made a pie, and drank my weight in champagne-based cocktails. And then by the time Friday was here, I was feeling all sorts of pressure to make the weekend productive, and fun, and relaxing all at once, and I nearly had an anxiety attack. Does this happen to anyone else, or just me?

Anyway, it ended up being a great weekend – and it was fun, productive, and relaxing. Mission accomplished. Although the idea of a five-day work week is a little intimidating after a four-day weekend, I know it’s possible, and sorry not sorry, but I’m just gonna go ‘head and start that countdown until “Christmas Break”, okay?

But in the meantime, we’ve got Sunday night TV to hold us over. And last night, it was the bittersweet season finale of HBO’s “Insecure”. After last week’s episode, I was REALLY curious to see how the writers were going to wrap this one up, while keeping some sort of suspense for season two.

So, let’s get into it!

At the start of the episode, we find Issa doing what (I think) we all do post-breakup. Moping, on the couch, surfing Facebook, and embarrassing ourselves calling the ex too many times. After a few days, she stops by his new office and he gets pissed, and tells her not to call him anymore because he is DONE.

So, Issa heads to Malibu with her girlfriends for Kelly’s birthday. Molly is obviously still mad and is pretty cold for the majority of the trip despite Issa’s efforts to make her laugh and, at the very least, break the ice.

Molly is still hurt from what Issa said about her habits with men, and plays right into it when they’re all out dancing, and she’s making out with a random guy on the dancefloor, and ends up sleeping with him that night.

At this point, we’re 26 minutes into a 30-minute show and it’s looking like there’s no way Issa is going to have a happy ending. But at about that moment, one of the girls calls Issa out and tells her to stop acting like she has a boyfriend when she doesn’t, and know the group knows that they brokeup.

Just then, Lawrence calls Issa from the strip club where he nearly paid to sleep with a stripper. But instead, he calls Issa and tells her he misses her, and maybe they should talk. He throws in the thought that he hates sleeping at Chad’s.

Issa tells him she will be gone until Monday, so if he needs a place to stay he can go to the apartment. He says okay, and they hang up.

Issa immediately tells the ladies she has to go home because Lawrence wants to talk. None of them agree to go or to take her, but Molly comes through with the keys, and the two are heading home. Molly admits to Issa that she’s right, she is a mess, and Issa admits she’s got some work to do, too.

Issa gets home, and see’s Lawrence’s keys on the counter, but as she’s walking through the apartment, he doesn’t appear to be home. This is where it got a little fuzzy for me… it shows his Best Buy shirt hanging on the door, but perhaps he came and got his other belongings from the apartment before she got there?

Because the next scene, he’s at Tasha’s (the bank teller) apartment having wild sex with her. Like no holds.

And bam, Issa and Molly are outside on the bouch with a bottle of wine.

ROUGH.

As tough as this scene was to watch, it’s the realest ending they could have crafted. I almost thought Issa was going to end up with Molly and Lawrence back and it would have seemed too good to be true.

So, now we have to wait until season two. And I have a feeling it’s going to be a loooong wait, because that was such a good show!

Whew! So, even though “Insecure” is over for now, I hope you weren’t thinking that Sunday night TV recaps were coming to a close. Leave it to me to find something else to recap and feature it right here, on Mondays. What will we be recapping next? But of course, “Mariah’s World” on E!, which premiers Sunday, December 4 (perfect timing) at 9pm EST.

I have SO many questions about how this “8-Part Event” is going to play out, including all of the parts that focus on her now-ex. Will they be edited out or kept in; I find it hard to believe Mariah would let them stay. But only time will tell, and I cannot wait to see. Next Sunday!

Holiday Movie Guide!

Settling in for a long Christmas movie season.

Settling in for a long Christmas movie season.

Okay, I waited until AFTER Thanksgiving to mention Christmas… but it’s exactly a month away from today, so let’s get this party started! I often have trouble getting into the holiday spirit, but I feel like this year – we’re all reaching for any drop of joy we can get, as soon as possible.

I’ll be putting up my Christmas tree this weekend, dragging out my homemade wreath for my front door, and of course, watching holiday movies – I admit I’ve already started watching them (as early as two weeks ago #SorryNotSorry).

So, I’ve put together a list of Christmas movies we can all watch, because they’re on TV! Some of them are the classics we all know and love, others are holiday specials, and some are made for TV (a true guilty pleasure of mine). Pick the ones you like, set your DVR, and re-watch them all season long!

The Classics

Christmas With the Kranks (Lifetime) – Starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, this Christmas comedy is the story of The Kranks, who decide to skip Christmas while their daughter is away… until she decides to come home, causing a party-planning ruckus. Airs Sunday, November 27 @ 8pm CST.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (ABC Family) – It’s not officially Christmas without the crazy adventures of the Griswold family! Join Clark and the gang as they attempt to survive Christmas between the stress of decorating, extended family woes, shopping, and waiting for the much-anticipated Christmas bonus. You’ll probably want to buy the official glass moose mug to drink your egg nog from while you watch. Airs Thursday, December 1 @ 6:05pm CST.

WORSE? How could things get any worse? Take a look around here, Ellen. We’re at the threshold of hell. – Clark Griswold

Disney’s A Christmas Carol (ABC Family) – I know there are so many versions of this classic, but the story of Mr. Scrooge and the three ghosts remains the same, and always gets me in the holiday spirit. Airs Friday, December 2 @ 4:10pm CST.

Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (NBC) – We all know a “Grinch” or two, and frankly, I really just want to be a Who in Whoville so I can hang with Cindy Lou! Airs tonight @ 7pm CST.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (ABC) – For the kid in all of us, Charlie Brown has got to be one of the best little holiday flicks of all time, if only for the great music, and for the tip on not eating December snowflakes. Airs Thursday, December 1 @ 7pm CST.

The Santa Clause (ABC Family) – Tim Allen stars in another holiday favorite with this one, when he TURNS into Santa himself. Gotta love it, and hey, I totally have a crush on one of the elves. Airs Thursday, December 1 @ 8:15pm CST.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (CBS) – A story for our favorite outcast, Rudolph with his bright red nose, and his visit to the Land of Misfit Toys. Produced in 1964, this is a timeless classic. Airs Tuesday, November 29 @ 7pm CST.

Christmas Specials

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

Christmas in Rockefeller Center (NBC) – This is a special I have watched each year since I can remember. I love seeing all of the singers in their sparkly outfits, all leading up to the finale of the big, fat tree lighting. This year, expect to see Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, Josh Groban, Tori Kelly,  Dolly Parton, Jordan Smith, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, among others. Airs Wednesday, November 30 @ 7pm CST.

Saturday Night Live Christmas Special (NBC) – Because who doesn’t need laughs around the holidays? And we’re sure to see the Martha Stewart sketch! Airs Saturday, December 3 at 9pm EST. 

amazonMade-For-TV

A Christmas Melody (Hallmark) – Starring Mariah Carey and Lacey Chabert, this is the story of two women that meet each other again many years after high school, and a rocky competition over a Christmas pageant creates some small town drama. Airs Tuesday, November 29 @ 3pm CST.

One Starry Christmas (Hallmark) – This is one of my favorite Hallmark Channel Christmas movies! It’s the big shot corporate guy vs. the hot cowboy in a holiday love story, as they win the heart of the same woman. Complete with a starry country song. Airs Monday, November 28 @ 1pm CST.

Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors (NBC) – A movie based around Miss Dolly’s childhood, complete with many songs. Airs Wednesday, November 30 @ 9pm EST. 

Of course, there are so many additional holiday movies on this year. What are some of your favorites?

Hand-Picked: Fashionable holidays.

Baton Rouge's first Fashion Week!

Baton Rouge’s first Fashion Week!

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s time for the week’s final installment of “Hand-Picked” – it probably won’t be the last time ever for it, because, well I only went through maybe 1/4 of all the little mementos I have stuffed in boxes in my tiny apartments. But nonetheless, I do hope you’ve enjoyed all of my memories this week! I’ll be back to my regular posting next week, and this gave me a few days to unwind (very much needed) and think about the next direction for the blog.

Okay, first picture (above) is a few pieces I kept from Baton Rouge’s first Fashion Week, hosted by the one, the only Ryan Auld! Ryan was a contestant on Project Runway, and while he didn’t win during the standard season, he was later a contestant on Project Runway All Stars, where he completely knocked the socks off everyone and WON!

One cool thing about Ryan is that he’s from Louisiana! I actually met him while he was still in college, studying fashion at LSU. He was winning fashion competitions then, which is how I met him, because I wrote a story on him, and he got to study in Paris due to his winnings. I later ran into him again – as we unknowingly lived in the same apartment complex. He told me then that big things were happening for him, but he couldn’t tell me what. It was Project Runway.

The other cool thing about Ryan is that he is a two-time cancer survivor. Plus, he makes amazing clothes, and now he has a store in San Antonio. I have had a great time following his career, and cannot wait to see all the cool things he does in the future.

A merry Christmas party!

A merry Christmas party!

There are many cool perks to being a bartender, and one of them was the annual Christmas party. This particular party was always dressy, and included bottomless drinks, of course. That particular year, I loved the dress I bought – white and black color-blocked satin, with leopard-print heels. I even got my makeup done; and had asked my date by rewriting the words to “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” and leaving it in a Santa hat outside his apartment. We had a blast!

Just a few...

Just a few…

This is about 1/4 of the tickets I’ve got from John Mayer concerts – this is the downfall of digital tickets; that there’s nothing cool to show for it unless you print it. But, as John Mayer would say, we’ll remember it by seeing it with our own eyes.

Did it.

Did it.

In 2012, a few attorneys I respected started a team for Race for the Cure. This was prior to my sheer hatred of anything benefitting the Komen Foundation, but giant, pink margaritas were at the finish line, so I was in. My best friend had come to Baton Rouge to visit, and we did the race together. I’d never done anything like that, and it was fun!

Murder Mystery party!

Murder Mystery party!

Many years ago, I was party of a Mardi Gras Krewe for a short period of time. One of the cool things they did each year was a Murder Mystery Christmas party – I’ve never gone to one of those, but I’d always wanted to after that Murder Mystery weekend episode of “Saved By The Bell” – no, seriously. My character was Sandy, and I was a lifeguard. I wore a whistle, and lots of bronzer, and was carrying sunscreen. I was NOT the murderer.

Hoorah for writing contests!

Hoorah for writing contests!

When I was in college, The New York Times hosted a writing contest for college students, which asked contestants to write about an aspect of their college experience. I entered, and although I did not win, my piece was featured on The New York Times website, which was a very proud moment for me. I have entered many-a-writing contest, and probably will continue to do so (I’m actually working on another entry this weekend), and they are always an interesting challenge.

So sweet!

So sweet!

My best friend’s sister gave me this note – and I thought it was too sweet not to post! And yes, she IS a good friend and sister!

Cheers to the weekend, guys! I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

Memorial Day weekend plans(!).

Cheers to the (long) weekend!

Cheers to the (long) weekend!

At precisely 5:30pm today, the long weekend begins and I cannot tell you just how excited I am! This is my first REAL Memorial Day Weekend, as previous jobs I’ve had for the last 8 years did not grant us Monday off. So… I have been thinking about this weekend for a very long time.

And, I also want to mention that it’s important to remember the reason we have the day off – to remember and be grateful for those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom. I cannot image the bravery our soldiers have each and every day they go to work – I couldn’t do it.

So, what’s on my agenda this weekend? I don’t have a set time for most of these things, and some of it depends on the weather (it’s supposed to rain all three days in Austin), so who knows how much I’ll actually get done. But here are my ideas:

Food – Of course I’m planning to get my summer eat-on this weekend! I am definitely on the hunt for a taco truck, as I’ve been slacking when it comes to my local eating adventures. I also have ingredients for a bomb-ass burger, and there’s a watermelon in my fridge that I’m ready to carve. And I will also be hunting for a good bottle of rose, following my own advice from the guide to rose.

Movies – If it rains, I’m hitting up the Alamo Draft House to see “Neighbors 2”, where I’ll be able to see the hot Zac Efron, while mowing down a hot dog and fries. It’s a win-win for this unofficial kick-off of summer. I also set my DVR to record “JAWS”, because what is more festive than watching an old movie about a giant shark that haunts a beach town?

Shop – There’s going to be some good sales out there, and I’m ready to tackle them. I am on the lookout for some cute, white skinny jeans, so this may be another good rainy-day activity, if needed. I am also looking for a good outdoor chair for my patio. I might have to lose myself in IKEA.

Relax – I am really hoping to hit the pool this weekend, but between the shitty weather and my complex’s habit of never opening the pool, I am kind of accepting the fact that this will not happen. However, either way, I want to spend some time getting some rest and relaxation. I’m reading a great book (see: Blanche’s Book Club), my DVR is full of good TV (not to mention season 1 of “The West Wing on DVD”), and my bed is super comfy.

Sports – There’s a Round Rock Express baseball game every day this weekend, and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate America than a good old fashioned ball game, complete with a chili dog and a beer. Haayyyy batta batta batta, sah-wiinng battaaah. See you there!

Tourism – I bought a ticket to take a ferry tour of downtown Austin. It’s good for any weekend this summer, but if the weather permits, I’ll go for a ride.

What are you up to this weekend? I’ll truly be taking time off and skipping the blog on Monday, but I’ll be right back at it come Tuesday. Until then, feel free to stalk me on Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 – Have a great weekend everyone! 

Pic of the Week.

Homemade snack mix for TV watching.

Homemade snack mix for TV watching.

Welp, Sunday is Valentine’s Day, and hopefully by now, some of you have started to receive goodies from me to celebrate this holiday I’m really coming to loathe. But, we’ll talk about that more tomorrow.

Aside from the handmade cards, I also mailed out gifts, and for some, I mailed Valentine’s-themed tins of homemade snack mix! I love a good snack mix while I’m sitting at my desk sorting through Excel sheets, paired with a nice, crisp LaCroix.

While there are many delicious snack mixes out there, I knew it would be pretty easy to make my own, plus I could customize it to have all the things I like! So,  here is what I threw into my Valentine’s Day mix:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Honey roasted peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Wasabi peas
  • Peanut butter pretzel nuggets
  • Dried fruit: cranberries, golden raisins, cherries
  • Annie’s Cheddar Squares
  • Annie’s Sour Cream & Onion Bunnies
  • Multigrain Cheerios Dark Chocolate Crunch

It’s a lot, I know! I got the almonds raw, so I roasted them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Everything else was roasted, salted, or sugared as it came, so I just left it as is. I mixed every ingredient in one at a time so I could make sure things were getting evenly dispersed.

I packed the mix in the tins lined with tissue paper and plastic wrap, and mailed them off. Of course, I saved some back for myself and I plan on shoveling some down the hatch while I watch Valentine’s Day movies on the Hallmark Channel this weekend.

If you get a Valentine’s Day card in the mail from me, I’d love for you to post a pic of it – perhaps a selfie, if you’re so daring! Let’s share the love, y’all, or at least just fake it until we make it.

The People vs. O.J. Simpson cast.

The People vs. O.J. Simpson cast.

In other news, did anyone watch the premier The People vs. OJ Simpson last week? I definitely did and it’s RIVETING. I cannot wait to catch the second episode tonight (10pm/9pmC on FX)!

The show stars John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. Simpson, Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian.

Now, I was really young when all of this went down, but I vividly recall watching CNN with my dad as the Bronco chase happened. It’s probably one of my first memories of watching CNN, which is special to me.

I knew it was a big deal, but of course I was too young to realize just HOW big of a deal it was. So, a few years ago, I read, “Evidence Dismissed: The Inside Story of the Police Investigation of O.J. Simpson” by Tom Lange, Philip Vannatter, and Dan E. Moldea (the detectives on the case).

The story begins when the detectives get the 4 a.m. phone call that there’s been a double murder at, what they think, is the home of O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown. At the time, detectives had not identified the dead male as Ronald Goldman

The work of the murderer seemed sloppy—blood everywhere, after Brown was nearly decapitated. However, the murder weapon (from wounds appeared to be a large knife) was never found. Detectives headed to the home of Simpson to tell him the news, but when they arrived at his estate, the case thickened. 

Detectives immediately noticed a white Bronco parked oddly, straight off the street as if it was parked in a hurry. They buzzed to get inside the gates, but no one answered. They then wondered if there was trouble inside the home. After several attempts to get inside, detectives jumped the gates—a move that would later ruin their case.

Once inside the gates, they met Brian “Kato” Kaelin, who offered part of Simpson’s alibi: he went to his daughter’s dance recital, then accompanied Kato to McDonald’s. After McDonald’s however, Kato said he didn’t see Simspon but he heard three loud thumps outside, but he saw nothing. 

Simpson said he was asleep during the time of the murders, but later, his attorney Johnnie Cochran said O.J. was inside packing for his flight to Chicago and was later hitting golf balls outside, which accounted for the three thumps Kato heard. 

Although the prosecutors had no murder weapon or witnesses, they thought they’d win the case on blood evidence alone. The bloody footprints at the crime scene didn’t rule out Simpson as a match. Matches were found in blood splatter on Brown’s gates. A match with Goldman’s blood was also found on a glove at at Simspon’s home — enter the gloves.

At the crime scene, one dark leather glove fit for a male was found. Its match was found at Simspon’s home, along with blood inside and outside the Bronco. Both gloves had DNA evidence, linking Simpson to the crime scene, including strands of Brown’s blond hair. At the trial, Simpson was asked to try on the gloves, which were too tight a fit after being soaked in blood, tested, frozen, and thawed several times. 

Other evidence from the prosecutors included : DNA blood matches for Brown on a sock at Simpson’s home, Simpson’s hair found on Goldman’s shirt, previous records of abuse from Simpson, reported to police by Brown. All signs pointed to yes…except two: 1. the issue of race and 2. media coverage. 

During a cross-examination, detective Mark Fuhrman denied being a racist or using the n-word in prior years. However, the defense unleashed a tape of Fuhrman using the word more than 40 times in a interview he did about female police officers. While everyone was shocked, including the other detectives, it certainly didn’t help the case, which had a more than half black jury. 

From there, the case wasn’t about Simpson anymore. It wasn’t about the murders. It became about proving that the detectives were racist and they planned the entire thing—from sprinkled blood to faulty police work. In closing arguments, Cochran compared Fuhrman to Hitler and also pointed out the detectives lived in the same area of Los Angeles where the Rodney King incident occurred. 

From day one, this case has been the most popular case in history. While reading this book, I’ve heard stories from my co-workers saying they watched the entire case unfold, or school stopped and the verdict was announced over intercoms. The popular news made finding witnesses difficult. Many locals stepped forward to say they had a story, they saw something, but most of the time they had just been paid off from a tabloid. 

When the verdict was announced, that the jury found Simpson not guilty, the nation was racially split. While he walked as an innocent man for awhile, today he is in jail for armed robbery and kidnapping. 

The first episode of “The People vs. OJ Simpson” ended right before the Bronco chase is about to start – so, it’s about to GO DOWN tonight! I realize I’m getting way too excited about a TV show,  but for now, this is my life, folks.

And this Christmas…

And this Christmas will be...a very special Christmas for me!

And this Christmas will be…a very special Christmas for me!

It should come as NO surprise that the holiday season has got me thinking back (pretty sure I love to live in the past). But the interesting thing is that it was a little candle I got in the mail that really sent me down memory lane.

A few weeks ago, there was a tea light in my December Birchbox. It was in a little silver tin, and I opened the lid and took a good whiff. The smell was very familiar, and almost immediately took me back.

I rolled the tin over to see what scent it was: Red Currant by Votivo.

It was the exact candle they sold in one of the three retail shops I was working in last Christmas. This particular shop made its profit on candles, so I spent a majority of my spare time there smelling the candles and reading their descriptions in order to help sell them.

The Red Currant candle was the least expensive one the store had, and it was a popular scent for the holidays. It was pretty easy to sell.

I spent last Christmas alone. The week of Christmas, I worked 60 hours between my three part-time jobs. I was sad on Christmas Day, but I also needed to literally rest my feet. I spent the day on the couch, and in the afternoon, I completed a freelance assignment. I needed every dime I could get.

It’s crazy just how much things have changed in just a year, or heck, even in just three months. This year, I’m enjoying paid time off from my full-time job. I was able to get nice gifts for the ones I love (even Blanche!), and I tried to do everything I could to make tomorrow special.

I won’t pour over the past any longer — let’s look into the future: Christmas! I’ve stocked my fridge with mimosa and bloody Mary fixins (because of course), and there’s all sorts of ingredients for the perfect meat and cheese tray — I really love making those.

Earlier this week, I made Cranberry Toaster Tarts (recipe from Martha Stewart’s Real Simple magazine) for us to enjoy tomorrow morning.

For Christmas dinner, I am going the non-traditional route and am fixing a recipe from Real Girl’s Kitchen that I’ve been eyeing for months: Short Rib Stew with Horseradish Cream. It looks delicious, and I even got help from a butcher to get the right cut of meat (a foodie’s true delight).

For dessert? I cheated and got something pre-made (a cherry cobbler). I’m all about keeping things simple for the holidays.

I’m really just so thankful to be spending a day full of relaxing, perhaps watching Christmas movies, enjoying some delicious food and wine… with a full weekend still ahead. It’s perfect.

I want to wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas! I have been so lucky to be able to share my testing year with a group of people who are supportive and willing to listen. I hope your holiday is fun, safe, and full of love. I’ll see you right back here, Monday — catch me on Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat (@OrangeJulius7) in the meantime!

Love,

Holly & Blanche (the kitty)

And hey, it’s Christmas Eve, so feel free to sign up for my blog class (or gift it to someone) for just $24 — instead of the usual $59. Happy holidays, y’all! 

Pic of the Week.

I know I’ve mentioned a few times that it’s been difficult for me to get into the Christmas spirit this year — and hey, I’ll probably mention it at least once more before Friday. Deal with it.

But, I think this happens to me every single year. Sometimes, I’ll go the entire season without feeling “Christmassy” and then BAM, on Christmas Eve, when I’m baking a nice little pie, I feel festive. I suppose it doesn’t matter when it happens, so as long as it happens.

Over the weekend, I made it my MISSION to watch pretty much nothing but Christmas and holiday stuff on TV. Here’s a little rundown of what I saw (or at least listened to while I did my chores):

Yeah, it was a lot. But even watching these movies (hearing all the Christmas songs) got me in the holiday spirit. It didn’t hurt that I was burning some of my favorite holiday candles as well: Mountain Lodge, Vanilla Bourbon, and Frasier Fir.

I also watched the Christmas episodes of one of my favorite shows, “Will & Grace”, including the Christmas Eve episode in season five.

I finished up my Christmas shopping Friday night (where I got to see lots of Christmas lights), so I wrapped all of the gifts on Saturday while I watched said movies. I also hit the market to pick up all of my holiday food (and okay, lots of wine).

My mom flew into town yesterday, so we’ll be spending this afternoon doing all sorts of festive activities — including ice skating and the Trail of Lights (you should really check it out on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7) — and tomorrow we are treating ourselves to “Merry Mani-Pedis,” which consist of peppermint scrub. Sweet!

I hope you’re finding the holiday spirit within, and that you’re able to spend this week with close family and/or friends. I’ve got some more holiday goodies for y’all in tomorrow’s blog, and some extra thoughts on the season for Thursday’s post. Happy holidays, my fabulous readers!

PS. Treat yourself to that CUTE Kate Spade thermal travel tumbler, or one very similar, right here. Cheers! 

P.S.S. My class, Blogging for Beginners, is FINALLY live on Udemy.com — check it out here — and I would LOVE to offer it to you for $25 instead of the usual $59 using code: Hurray 

All the info for the class is on the site, but it is a 4-hour class with 33 lectures, and you get to know everything you EVER wanted to know about blogging! I really hope to see you there!