Happy Hour: Mulled Red Wine

Since I was away at college for my 21st birthday, during my next trip home my mom wanted to do something special to celebrate. We decided to take day trip to do some wine tasting on the Finger Lakes Wine Trail.   For those of you who dont know- the Finger Lakes are a group of 11 glacial lakes in Upstate New York which make up New Yorks largest wine producing region.  There are over 100 vineyards in the area so it can take some time to hit them all. Most of the vineyards are positioned on steep hills that overlook the lakes. The scenery is beautiful, especially during the fall.  

My birthday is in February and for those of you familiar with upstate New York winters, you know it was a bitterly cold day.  One of the first stops on our wine tour was Lucas Vineyards, Cayuga Lakes oldest vineyard. If you plan to do a tour, I highly suggest stopping here. Now I have to give the disclaimer, up until this point I never liked red wine. I think part of it was mental since I had one that I wasnt fond of and had a hard time trying it with an open mind after that.  I was pleasantly surprised when I tried their Tug Boat Red but what was even better was the crock pot of red wine that had been mulling infusing all day. DELISH! Once the red wine is mulled, it takes on a completely different flavor profile.

Were totally getting into the holiday spirit this weekend and Im beyond psyched since its the first time Ive had my own Christmas tree. This red wine is the perfect decorating companion on a chilly winter day. As much as I love serving up cocktails, the one thing I love about this wine is that it sits in the crock pot, ready to be served.

To mull the red wine, pour the entire bottle into the crock pot and add your mulling spices. It couldnt be any easier. You can buy mulling spice blends at any grocery or specialty foods store for convenience. I had most of the things I needed in the cupboard already from the cranberry sauce so I made my own blend. You will need 2 cinnamon sticks, 3 whole cloves, 3 all spice berries, and an orange peel. Combine the ingredients and allow to heat for a couple of hours. There are times I have let this sit in the crock pot for less than an hour and times I have let it sit for 6 hours. The wine does get spicier as it sits but both times I enjoyed the outcome.

Cheers and Happy Decorating!

-Sorry for the lack of photo, I couldn't get a picture without the wine looking black. Bad lighting today, it's so dark out! I will try again tomorrow.

Get Spotted

I love how even the smallest addition of polka dots can make an outfit feel girly and fun. These are some dotted pieces I'm currently craving. 

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Last week when I was searching Pinterest and Foodgawker for a dish to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, I came across this article about Mom Parsons' Cranberries. I loved the story that went along with it and the simplicity of the recipe was just what I was looking for.

Its hard for me to plan anything too elaborate since I spend 5 hours in the car to get to my parents and it can be a pain to travel with food. I have never been huge on cranberry sauce, probably because Ive only ever had the stuff from a can. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to try something new (and get my family off the canned- cran kick).

The sachet of spices adds dimension to the tart cranberries and its not-too-jellied texture was perfect for someone who wants their cranberry sauce as far  from the usual canned blob as possible. Even the picky eaters welcomed the addition toour normal Thanksgiving spread and it tasted amazing piled on my  hot turkey sandwich the next day.

I doubled this recipe and after reading some reviews, decided to use the sachet to keep the spices together and also opted to substitute half of the water called for with fresh orange juice.  I also substituted the sugar for Stevia (use half the amount of sugar called for). Making the sauce took hardly any time at all, maybe 15 minutes tops. I kept the sachet in with the cranberries while it cooled and once it was room temp, popped the entire dish into the freezer with a lid When I arrived at my parents I kept the cranberries in the fridge over night and in the morning pulled out the spices and topped with orange zest.  Since our family has a  Thanksgiving-esque dinner for Christmas, Ill be making the sauce again ahead of time and storing it in the freezer  to cut down on the cooking craziness around the holiday.

These stewed, spiced cranberries dont have to be reserved for a turkey dinner, either. They would taste great on top of cheesecake or vanilla ice cream.

What are your favorite new takes on holiday dinner classics?

Monday Motivation

Ahh after the drive back to CT and a long day at the office, it feels good to be back to my apartment. As nice as it always is to spend time with friends and family it can be exhausting living out of a suitcase and trying to squeeze in everything during a few short days.

Today was a rude awakening. I wasn't quite ready to take on Monday. I was searching for motivation all day. After completely bingeing this weekend, its time for me to get back on track. If you are in the same boat here is some motivation for your Monday. Get out there and ask for what you want this week! 

image credit

5 Tips for Survival on Black Friday

Every year my mom, our friend Betsy and I venture out to take on the madness that is Black Friday. We always get a little crazy but have a great time. Here are my tips for survival as a seasoned vet when it comes to Black Friday shopping:

1. Don't take it too seriously. We don't go out with the hopes of getting every great deal advertised. Let's get real, we're not into trampling others for a TV. Some people get pretty intense over saving a couple hundred on some electronics and while we love a good deal as much as the next person- it doesn't get us down it if doesn't work out. Be able to laugh at the people who view Black Friday like it's life or death. I can guarantee we are having more fun laughing at the crazies foaming at the mouth ready to pounce on an Xbox and snapping secret pics of the Walmart shoppers' white leggings or the  bunny pajama pants as they dig through a bin of $2 towels. Oh, and the video we got of a mom with  stroller full of kids punching another woman for a Kindle....priceless.

2. Have a mimosa first! We start our shopping at midnight but first we strategize, map out our route and scope the ads over a mimosa. This makes the whole trip a little more fun but be careful not to take it too far. Last year we had a casualty, iPhone in a cup of Yuengling as the doors of Macy's opened. Oops. We are going to have to find a new drink to fuel the madness since FourLoko just isn't what it used to be.  Even though it may sound like it, my Black Friday isn't a booze driven free for all but as my mom always said, life is better buzzed.

3. Make a list. This might seem obvious but when you can't remember if that mixer was cheaper at Target or Macy's, you'll thank me. I have a very short list. Store name: 3 best deals I am interested in. It gives you a clear plan of action and keeps you from wandering the store and wasting valuable money saving time.

4. Designate a line- waiter. If there is someone in the group that doesn't need anything specific at a certain store, they get right in line to hold your spot. Once you have what you need you can trade spots with who ever was in line. The people behind you might not be so happy but sorry ladies, rules are there are no rules.

5. Set a budget or a cut off time. It's easy to get delirious on this day. After 8 hours of non-stop shopping, you start looking at things you never even wanted. That Shop Vac at Lowe's....do you really need it? Wait- is $200 for an espresso machine even a good deal? Do you even like espresso? Then you remember as you are in line you already have an espresso machine! Exactly. At this moment in time your judgment is clearly compromised. Stick to your list or budget and GO HOME. When it gets to be 1 in the afternoon and you are stock piling socks and candles in your cart to save a buck, it's time to hit the road you crazy, bargain hunting, sleep deprived woman (or man).

Chances are you will spend way more money than you would if you spaced out your holiday shopping over the months of November and December like a normal person, but hey you got a great deal. Just remember- be able to laugh at this all at the end of the day, your sanity is worth more than the $20 you just saved on a Keurig.

Do you guys have any tips for surviving Black Friday? Oh, and what do you think of stores like Wal-Mart opening at 8pm on Thanksgiving day? I think it's a load of bullshit and I'm not giving into that. I still want to enjoy my Thanksgiving day. Plus I need that time from 8-11pm- I'm usually napping to prep for the night's coming activities. We don't go out until midnight and I will NEVER go a minute before. It's Black FRIDAY, peeps. Not Black Thursday. Have fun!

illustration by Fatim Hana

Hostess Gifts for the Holiday Season

1. Tea Towels grey, reindeer (1 & 2)

I love bringing a gift to the host, especially during the holiday season. It feels so good to give someone else a gift, no matter how small. For anyone that's hosted a large party you know- you deserve a gift after all of that hard work! It's easy to find unique and personalized gifts this time of year. Here are some I have come across that would be great to give as a gift to a host or under the Christmas tree or even for yourself.

Add Some Juice to Your Morning

The way your morning starts can be a great predictor of how the rest of your day will go.  You should be starting off with a hearty breakfast that's low in fat, high in fiber. If you still think you don't have time that, you can still do yourself a favor by having a glass of water with lemon to start your day.

Lemons are high in vitamin c which supports your immune system, reduces inflammation and even gives you glowing skin. Even though lemons are acidic to the taste, they are alkaline in the body which helps restore the body's pH. The juice of half of a lemon in a glass of warm water can act as a gentle diuretic which naturally flushes the toxins from your system.  I like to make a pitcher to keep in the fridge. It gives a boost of energy, starts up your metabolism and tastes better than water without lemon. I toss a few lime slices in there to double up on antioxidants.

Happy Hour: Pomegranate Sangria

Happy Friday! So Wednesday of this week was a little bit of a stressful day for me. When I got home I was so excited have an hour of peace and quiet before I had to start making dinner. All I wanted for that hour was to light my mountain retreat woodwick candle, pour a glass of wine and sit on the couch- in silence. I had been daydreaming of this moment for the last couple hours of my work day and couldnt get home fast enough. 

Since RP isnt much of a wine drinker I picked up a box of wine so that I didnt have to finish the bottle by myself. I know, I know, so many people still think boxed wine is for college students but once youve out grown Franzia, there are some pretty tasty boxed wine options. Black Box and Fish Eye are two that I really enjoy. 

Finally the moment I had been waiting for.  For some reason (complete exhaustion or maybe that 2nd degree burn I got making caramel sauce?) I could not get my thumb through the perforated line on the box to reach the spout. I grabbed a knife to loosen it a little bit and Im sure you can guess what happened next because what kind of idiot takes a sharp knife to flimsy cardboard box with a delicate BAG of wine inside! Yup, thats right. I pierced right through the box AND bag. There was a mist of pinot grigio into the air and the next thing I knew I had a wine saturated box, sticky counter and floor and wine facial. It was the icing on the cake. I stood there for about 3 minutes watching the wine flow out of the hole, thinking about what I should do. First thought- I better call some friends, second thought- this might be salvageable, third thought- WHY DID YOU EVEN BUY THIS STUPID BOX OF WINE? I tried tape unsuccessful. I even tried staples. Thats just downright dumb, hey I was desperate. I created 6 new holes in the bag. 

After messing around with it for about 20 minutes, I poured a glass from the hole, propped it up on a can opener and thanked god I date an engineer since he seems to be able to fix anything and in my head this bag was totally fixable.

As RP walked in the door, he immediately sensed my defeat, joined me in the kitchen and we just laughed. We eventually decided the bag couldnt be fixed and filled 11 zip loc bags with wine. Portion control? Pinot Capri Suns? Space saving cooler option? It wasnt a totally horrible idea and it does make us smile every time we open the fridge. So now I have quite a bit of wine to drink and what better for happy hour than pomegranate SANGRIA! Its been a while since Ive made sangria and the last one was absolutely delicious. Im happy to say that this one is equally as tasty.

Sangria is an easy choice for the busy holiday season. You make it ahead of time, so there is no hold up at your serving station, less mess and it can serve quite a few people. I usually have most of these ingredients on hand so its perfect to whip up on days you have unexpected guests. This recipe would be perfect for Thanksgiving or even if you have guests over for day after leftovers (my favorite).

To make Pomegranate Sangria
1 Bottle White Wine
3 oz Triple Sec
Seeds of 1 Pomegranate
Slices of 1 lime
Slices of 1 Orange
Let sit for at least 4 hours. 
Top off with Pomegranate Seltzer

Feel free to double the recipe to serve a larger crowd. Cheers!

New Traditions

With the holiday season right around the corner, there is a lot of chit chat around the office about what everyone does for the holidays. It's really interesting to hear everyone's answers. Some are excited to be spending time with their families (some dreading it), others excited for their new family's first visit from Santa, and others deciding whether Santa will ever visit to their house or not.

For people my age, the question isn't really if Santa will come but it's what they will do for the holidays now that they don't live with their parents. Being in your early twenties and starting life after college really holds so many changes in life. All of this got me thinking that this is the first time RP and I have spent the holidays together in our own place, not as students (for some reason being a student changes everything- maybe it's that entire month off). It will be the first time we decorate and get a Christmas tree. It's an exciting time and hopefully the start of some new traditions.
Traditions are a big part of my family and our holiday celebrations. We have some pretty kooky ones like singing the hokey pokey around the tree on Christmas eve with our extended family and our close friends that might as well be family. Many of my family's traditions were kept on or brought to life by my little sister who is 10 years younger than me and 7 years younger than my brother. Things like reading the Twas the Night Before Christmas pop up book before bed on Christmas eve or getting a present on a siblings birthday for being "a good big sister" were a part of our family for a long time.

Right now I am at a point in my life where I will be embracing old traditions but also forming new traditions. It is strange to think about. Do traditions just happen spontaneously? Do you decide that you'll do something every year? I guess each person takes their favorite traditions or parts of them and carries them throughout their life. Traditions can change depending on who you are with or where you are and sometimes your friends traditions then become yours. In our own ways, we carry on these cherished memories while forming new ones.

What are your favorite traditions for the holidays or special occasions? Have you ever found yourself at a point where you were forming a new set of traditions?

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Tablescape Inspiration

I am totally in Thanksgiving countdown mode, a few days off of work, the pre-Thanksgiving night out with my friends plus my mom and I have some crazy Black Friday traditions, not to mention an amazing meal. Every time my stomach growls I find myself thinking, "Only a week until Thanksgiving." Just incase you aren't quite counting down the minutes yet, you will be after seeing beautiful tablescapes.
Photographed by Leslie Walker Photography
Photographed by STAK Photographer Duo
Photographed by Captured by Aimee.
Photographed by Elizabeth Medina
Photographed by The Image Is Found
What do you think? Are you counting down now? Thanks for stopping by.

*all images via Style Me Pretty

Gift Buying: For Him

I like to start all of my holiday shopping early, once December hits time starts to fly (plus it gives me a reason to hit the mall more often than usual). I try to tackle the tough people first. Everyone has that certain someone that is hard to buy for, you know the person with everything. The hardest people for me to buy gifts for are the guys. The guys in my life usually go out and buy whatever it is they want, when they want it. Here are some gifts I've found that I think guys would love to get but probably won't go buy themselves.

Do you have any other suggestions for guy gifts since I just ruined all of the surprises for my boyfriend and brother?

Weekend Reads: 11.10.12

Good morning! It's chilly here this morning. I've got my coffee and I'm parked next to the fireplace while I do my reading. I'd love to sit here all day and do this all day but I've got some fun things planned and goals to be super productive this weekend (as usual). 

Dreaming of an island getaway? How about your own island?

Focus on people rather than SEO

We've had a little bit of a running joke about hitting up some nearby spots featured on Diners, Drive ins and Dives. With this list, that joke may be a little closer to becoming reality.

Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your Saturday!

Happy Hour: Tropical Autumn

Happy Friday! I hope you all had a great end to the week. Tonight we are taste testing a newbie. We're callin' a tropical autumn because it was beautiful, sunny day which was a welcomed surprise after a grey snowy week.

Tropical Autumn
1/4 oz vodka
1/4 oz pineapple rum
1/4 oz Captain Morgan
1/4 oz peach schnapps
1/4 oz triple sec
1 oz pineapple juice
top with club soda

Cheers! Enjoy your weekend.

Bourbon Caramel Sauce

I think we can all agree, there is little better than a well done caramel sauce. Ice cream, apples, cheesecake, you name it- it can most likely be improved with a drizzle of caramel over it. This caramel sauce makes about a cup so tonight we'll be having a simple classic, hot caramel sauce on top of vanilla ice cream. I've seen some mouth watering recipes for apple nachos on Pinterest to try tomorrow with the left overs.

Bourbon Caramel Sauce:
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tbsp bourbon 

Simmer the water and sugar over medium heat until it reaches an amber color. This took me about 12 minutes. Reduce heat, slowly stir in the heavy cream. Stir until smooth. Add butter and vanilla. Stir until combined and let thicken.

Crush up some heath bar to make a sundae.

Holiday Jewelry Picks

The holidays are quickly approaching. I love everything about the holiday season. Getting together with friends and family, delicious foods, festive decor, and getting dressed up are already my favorite things so when they all happen at the same time from November- January, it's like heaven. 

I like to use the holiday season to pull some things out of my closet or jewelry box that I may not wear everyday. I like adding a little extra sparkle to my outfits during the holiday season. These pieces are my holiday picks that I'm currently drooling over. 

Weekend Reads: 11.3.12

Good morning! Go grab your cup of coffee and check out my favorite reads of the week.

  • Put these November Superfoods on your grocery list. It's best to buy your fruits and veggies in season. Guess it's time to finally eat that damn sweet potato.
  • I originally saw this over on Nubby Twiglet, but felt it was worth sharing. How to let purpose find you.
  • It is the perfect time of year to go for a hike. Check out Trails.com to find some trails near you. 
  • I'm making a chili bar for tomorrow's Sunday dinner. Check out these 20 off beat recipes for chili.

Happy Hour: Jafluzzi

Happy Friday!  I am really excited to share this drink today because it is one of my absolute favorites.  

Two of my closest friends I have made since finishing college and starting life outin the real world introduced me to this drink. My first happy hour after work the girls took me to a great spot in Hartford called Salute and raved about the “Jacuzzi.  Salute has some pretty great specials and an awesome champagne bar but after hearing the hype of thecuzzi I had to go with it. The drink totally lived up to my expectations and since Ive never seen it anywhere else, its a given that we will all order it whenever we make it for happy hour.

Since then its been tough to get to Salute as often as wed like.  If you were reading yesterday, you know we committed to having a monthly Sunday dinner and this Sunday its my turn to host. I bet you can guess what cocktails Im serving, yup- my interpretation of the Jacuzzi aka the Jafluzzi. This is a drink recipe you will want to keep. Just be careful theyre dangerousand x-rated.


1 oz X rated liquor (a french vodka flavored blood orange, mango and passion fruit)
1/2 oz pineapple rum
1/2 oz orange juice
top with champagne

Cheers! Enjoy the weekend!

New Month, New Start: November

Hi all! I hope everyone is getting back to (semi) normal life after Sandy. We were veryfortunate to be left pretty much unscathed. It is devastating to see the destruction along the east coast. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy.
the calm before the storm
It’s my favorite day of the month, the first, which means it is time to reevaluate the goals I set for myself last month and get going on some new ones.

October’s goals were centered around this blog and friendships- two things I adore! I’m psyched that my blog has came so far in such a short amount of time and I am absolutely in love with the design of Eldy’s Pocket. Such a big step up from this time last month.

I made time to catch up with some friends (way over due!) and even made some brand new ones. It always surprises me how powerful a few laughs (and drinks) with an old friend are. I laugh a lot, as a matter of fact, it’s my favorite thing to do. But there is something unique about best friend laughs, they feel different. You leave your friends with your abs and face a little sore from smiling so much and laughing so hard. It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s one of those things that you don’t realize how much you missed it until it happens. You know what I mean, you both look at each other and say, “why don’t we do this more often?” For some reason it’s easy to kind of forget that feeling when you get back to your day to day routine. In reality though, there is no replacement for quality time with like minded ladies (or gents). I also find that the best ideas I have come from bouncing things back and forth with my friends. Why deprive yourself of that?! This can’t just be a monthly goal for me anymore- it has to just be a way of life. Peel away from the computer screen and get out of the office, make time for real life connections. They are so valuable to your happiness (and your sanity). A group of us even committed to rotate hosting for Sunday dinner once a month to make sure we make time for each other which I can’t wait for.

The Blogcademy has inspired me to do things a little differently from now on.  As I explained in my recap, this workshop really was SO much more than a weekend blogging seminar. It forced me to do some self reflection that I didn’t even know I needed. I can still feel the positive energy from the weekend in NYC, the kind of energy that gets you devising plans, making to do lists, daydreaming about where you are going next. It honestly gets you thinking about who YOU are and where YOU are going.
Photo credit: Femke Leemans
A large part (and my favorite part) of the weekend was a presentation led by super talented Shauna of Nubby Twiglet,  about blogging, branding, and creating an online presence. The exercises Shauna designed to help identify and develop a brand forced you to think about who you are and what you want to get out everything you are doing.  But at the end of the day, my blog is me, I am my blog. The branding seminar actually prompted me (and judging by the posts from my classmates, them, too) to do some serious soul searching. I went into the weekend feeling fairly confident and I have always *thought I was* comfortable with who I am. Despite that, the questions that forced me to look at myself were, at times, extremely difficult to answer.  The weekend left me thinking, maybe I don’t know myself as well as I thought.

Essentially, your brand is identified by who you are to the world. Questions like who are you, what do you love, how do you define yourself forced me to (sadly) realize that I just don’t know those answers right now. It is unsettling to think that the one thing in this world I (should) know best, myself, I didn’t know at all.

I have always been extremely jealous of people who have so easily identified their passions and what they want to do with their life. Having that direction seems to make their journey so much more focused and in my opinion, easier. It feels like they were given a map and those of us who don’t know exactly what we want are kind of left wandering. Growing up my best friend knew with 100% of her being that she wanted to be a vet. When it came down to deciding on colleges, internships and jobs, she knew exactly where to look, what steps to take and how to get there. Other people can easily recognize her passion, it is so obviously part of her personality. This is something I have ALWAYS struggled with. There are a ton of things I am interested, some things I’m ok at, but my true passions? That’s a deep question for me. What makes me, ME?

So many of the women I was with at the Blogcademy were so excited to get back to their jobs on Monday, inspired and ready to work. I was right along with them but when I got to my 9-5 that morning and opened my inbox, I felt like a deflated balloon. I literally felt the positive energy escape me. Don’t get me wrong, I work for a great company (that truly values their employees), an amazing boss (who acknowledges hard work and effort), coworkers that have actually become irreplaceable friends, work that is challenging and even interesting but it is definitely not my life’s passion. At the end of the day I am not satisfied by the work that takes up a HUGE part of my life.  I don’t leave my office feeling fulfilled and inspired (inspired to go to happy hour maybe *joking*). As of matter of fact, most days it’s the opposite. I am exhausted, a little burnt out and usually not in the mood to come home and blog, let alone produce quality content. This is frustrating because my blog is something I want  to devote my energies into.

Photo credit: Femke Leemans
Following the Blogcademy, I had so many ideas floating around in my head that I didn’t know what to do with yet. Some I’m still unsure quite where they will fit in. I was ready to get started writing but in the back of my mind I knew that if I want to be successful, not only blogging but in my life, I need to address those difficult questions about who I am, what I have to offer, what I want and how I’m going to get there.

From now on New Month, New Start will focus less on setting the small goals and more on finding myself and my path. I still think it is extremely important to set goals for yourselfto stay focused so I am not letting that go completely but right now is a time in my life where I need and want to focus on the bigger picture. This is my life, this is my journey and this is my blog and all of these crazy/wonderful/scary components are coming together, which I am beyond excited about.

My goal this month (and every other month for the rest of forever) is to focus on living with intention. Living with intention is about exploring your priorities and discovering your passions. It is about utilizing the skills and gifts you already have. It’s about recognizing and honoring what is important to you right now but also making purposeful choices about what you will do next. At the end of the day, you are the only person in charge of what happens to you. You create the reality you live in by using inspiration, reflection and action. Everything in life happens for a reason, so choose a meaning that leaves you feeling inspired instead of bitter. I invite you to follow my progress in finding myself, living a fulfilled life and finding my path and in turn I urge you to reflect. What are you doing? Where are you going? How I’ll get there- I’m not quite sure but watch this space if you are ready to do some major soul searching right along here with me.
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