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Day 9 - Family Holiday Survival Guide:

"I don’t know what to say, except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery" - Ellen from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Well I hope your Christmas experience with family and friends isn’t quite as frustrating at the Griswold’s but if this is the case, here are some tips for survival.

Tip # 1 - Controlling the children

If you have a big family then there may be quite a few kids running around during Christmas parties and dinners. Some may be mature enough to realize that jumping on Uncle is not comfortable and flipping up Auntie’s mini skirt is not fun but unfortunately, most are not!

Well, be prepared. Come bearing gifts of sweets, games, and anything else to keep the crazy ones occupied. Bring a box of candy canes, chocolates, or cookies. If their parents prefer not to give them sugar then bring games. Think of games/activities they could do in the yard such as soccer, t-ball, chalk, a scavenger hunt, and more. These don’t have to be elaborate gifts but something simple to burn some energy.

Tip #2 - Gift Giving

Image from here.

Sometimes you don’t always need to bring a gift for each family member but you should always bring a gift for whoever is hosting the family. If Grandma has been slaving away to entertain the entire family then offer to bring a drink, dessert, flowers, or something as simple as napkins. The host will appreciate any offer of help as well! Setting the table or pouring drinks are just little acts of kindness that can help keep the stress level down for the host, which in turn keeps the stress level down for everyone else.

Tip #3 - Dealing with Talkative Family Members

Image found here.

You truly do enjoy talking to family members and catching up and you truly are interested in what they are saying! Keep telling yourself that after a one-sided conversation that has gone on for an hour see how you feel. Some of our family members be a little too excited to catch up on family gossip, news, and everything else but sometimes it can be a lot to handle in one sitting. To handle this situation bring along some photo albums or a laptop with your photo library. Show them the pictures and start talking about your life since you last saw them then say you will let them look at the book/laptop while you go over and set the table or say hi to someone else. This is a great win-win situation because you are not trapped in a long conversation and you still get to share you life with them and make them happy!

Tip #4 - Dinner is Late!

Image found here.

Complications in the kitchen can be commonplace, especially when a massive dinner is being made with numerous dishes. No worries! Provide support to the host by occupying the rest of the family with games. Think charades, bananagrams, Wii sports, or anything else.

For charades, grab a few oranges and split up the family into teams. Grab a bag of bananagrams to keep everyone occupied. If there is a Wii player then pop in Wii sports and take turns having a bowling competition or tennis match.

Tip #5 - Dinner Table Arguments

Images found here.

So maybe bringing up discussions on gay marriage or Occupy Wall Street may not be something the uber conservative Aunt Betty wants to talk about, maybe shout about but not calmly talk about. So extremely important tip for anything family gathering, do not talk about religion, politics, or anything super controversial. If you accidentally fall into a discussion then slowly back out of it by changing the subject. The holidays are a time to enjoy each other’s company, not fight.

Merry Christmas!

Comments
Day 8 - Christmas Cocktails:
Rule No. 432 from Esquire’s New Holiday Drinking Rules
Sing the following lyrics: Troll the ancient yuletide carol/Fa la la la la la la la la…
If you sang the “fa la la” part louder than the “troll the carol” part, you’ve had too much.
If you added or subtracted a “la” or two, you’ve had too much.
If you wondered how one might go about “trolling a carol”, you’ve had too much.
Well, with Esquire’s words of wisdom above….let’s talk about Christmas cocktails!
Foodnetwork’s Holiday Central 2011 is a great resource for all of these following cocktails and more.
Ginger Snap

Ingredients:
1 oz. ginger beer
Ice 
1 tsp. ginger juice 
1 1/2 oz. dark rum 
1 tsp. cinnamon schnapps 
Pinch of ground cloves 
1 egg white 
Cinnamon stick 
Crystallized ginger square 
Finely ground gingerbread cookie
Directions:


Pour enough ginger beer into a saucer to cover and dip a martini glass into the saucer to coat the rim. Dip into a saucer with ground  cookie. Scoop ice into shaker. Pour ginger juice, rum and cinnamon  schnapps into a shaker. Add a pinch of ground cloves. Separate an egg  and add egg white to shaker. Shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds  until drink is frothy and foamy. The longer you shake, the foamier the  drink. Add ginger beer and stir slightly. Pour into glass.




Garnish with a cinnamon stick and crystallized ginger square, and sprinkle the top with finely ground gingerbread cookie.


Note: You can replace crushed cookies with brown sugar or cinnamon to put on rim.
Mulled Wine

Ingredients:
4 cups apple cider
1 (750-ml) bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
1/4 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, zested and juiced
4 whole cloves
3 star anise
4 oranges, peeled, for garnish
Directions:
Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks,  zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil  and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs, add an orange  peel to each and serve.
Emeril’s Eggnog

Ingredients:
8 large eggs, 2 separated* 
3/4 cup sugar 
1/8 teaspoon salt 
2 1/2 cups heavy cream 
2 cups whole milk 
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish 
3/4 cup bourbon, optional 
1/4 cup brandy, optional
Directions:


Combine the 6 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together. Heat 2 cups heavy cream with the milk in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. When the cream and milk are hot, ladle about 1 cup into the egg mixture and whisk to incorporate. Pour the egg-milk mixture into the hot cream mixture,  and continue to cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens  enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from  the stove and strain the custard immediately through a fine-mesh sieve. Allow the custard to cool for 10 minutes before proceeding.




Add the vanilla, nutmeg, bourbon (if using), and brandy (if using)  to the eggnog and stir well to incorporate. Beat the 2 egg whites to  soft peaks in a clean mixing bowl and fold them into the custard base. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining 1/2 cup cream to soft peaks, and fold them into the eggnog as well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.




Pour into a decorative bowl or pitcher and garnish with nutmeg. Serve in small punch cups or old-fashioned glasses.


Chai Toddy

Ingredients:
One part chai tea concentrate 
One part whole milk 
1 star anise 
1 oz. cognac/brandy 
1 oz. DeKuyper Buttershots liqueur or butterscotch schnapps 
1/2 graham cracker, crushed and powdered
Directions:
Bring chai tea concentrate and milk to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Stir in star anise to flavor. Remove from heat. In a mug add brandy and butterscotch liqueur. Pour chai tea mixture into mug. 
Stir slightly and dust with crushed graham cracker
Candy Cane Cocktail

Ingredients:
1 shot vanilla rum
1 shot white chocolate liqueur (recommended: Godiva)
1 shot peppermint schnapps
Candy cane, garnish
Directions:
Add all liquid ingredients to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake  well and strain into martini glass. 
Garnish with candy cane.
MERRY CHRISTMAS…I’ll drink to that!

Image from Photographic Advertising Limited
Title image from here.

Day 8 - Christmas Cocktails:

Rule No. 432 from Esquire’s New Holiday Drinking Rules

Sing the following lyrics: Troll the ancient yuletide carol/Fa la la la la la la la la…

  • If you sang the “fa la la” part louder than the “troll the carol” part, you’ve had too much.
  • If you added or subtracted a “la” or two, you’ve had too much.
  • If you wondered how one might go about “trolling a carol”, you’ve had too much.

Well, with Esquire’s words of wisdom above….let’s talk about Christmas cocktails!

Foodnetwork’s Holiday Central 2011 is a great resource for all of these following cocktails and more.

Ginger Snap

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. ginger beer
  • Ice
  • 1 tsp. ginger juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. dark rum
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon schnapps
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 egg white
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Crystallized ginger square
  • Finely ground gingerbread cookie

Directions:

  1. Pour enough ginger beer into a saucer to cover and dip a martini glass into the saucer to coat the rim. Dip into a saucer with ground cookie. Scoop ice into shaker. Pour ginger juice, rum and cinnamon schnapps into a shaker. Add a pinch of ground cloves. Separate an egg and add egg white to shaker. Shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds until drink is frothy and foamy. The longer you shake, the foamier the drink. Add ginger beer and stir slightly. Pour into glass.

  2. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and crystallized ginger square, and sprinkle the top with finely ground gingerbread cookie.

Note: You can replace crushed cookies with brown sugar or cinnamon to put on rim.

Mulled Wine

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 4 oranges, peeled, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs, add an orange peel to each and serve.

Emeril’s Eggnog

Ingredients:

  • 8 large eggs, 2 separated*
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup bourbon, optional
  • 1/4 cup brandy, optional

Directions:

  1. Combine the 6 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together. Heat 2 cups heavy cream with the milk in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. When the cream and milk are hot, ladle about 1 cup into the egg mixture and whisk to incorporate. Pour the egg-milk mixture into the hot cream mixture, and continue to cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and strain the custard immediately through a fine-mesh sieve. Allow the custard to cool for 10 minutes before proceeding.

  2. Add the vanilla, nutmeg, bourbon (if using), and brandy (if using) to the eggnog and stir well to incorporate. Beat the 2 egg whites to soft peaks in a clean mixing bowl and fold them into the custard base. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining 1/2 cup cream to soft peaks, and fold them into the eggnog as well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

  3. Pour into a decorative bowl or pitcher and garnish with nutmeg. Serve in small punch cups or old-fashioned glasses.

Chai Toddy

Ingredients:

  • One part chai tea concentrate
  • One part whole milk
  • star anise
  • 1 oz. cognac/brandy
  • 1 oz. DeKuyper Buttershots liqueur or butterscotch schnapps
  • 1/2 graham cracker, crushed and powdered

Directions:

  1. Bring chai tea concentrate and milk to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir in star anise to flavor. Remove from heat. In a mug add brandy and butterscotch liqueur. Pour chai tea mixture into mug.
  2. Stir slightly and dust with crushed graham cracker

Candy Cane Cocktail

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Add all liquid ingredients to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into martini glass.
  2. Garnish with candy cane.

MERRY CHRISTMAS…I’ll drink to that!

Image from Photographic Advertising Limited

Title image from here.

Comments
Day 7 - Secret Santa:
Continuing with the inspiration from Dwight at Dunder Mifflin, let’s have a Yankee Swap. Ok, well maybe it doesn’t have to be as ruthless as Dwight’s game. Here are some gift ideas under $30 that are great for everyone!

Santa’s Secret Sauce Flask - $9.99
Fun gift for the fun person in the office!

Gorillapod Original - $19.94
Most people have a digital camera or even a smart phone for taking pictures. This tripod can attach to any device (just need to buy different adaptors). Also, the tripod can attach to any place from light-poles, side-view mirror, and more.

Macro Cell Lens Band - $15.00
Continuing with the idea of the photographer in all of us, this great attachment to any smart phone with a camera is perfect!

Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook - $22.19
So maybe everyone doesn’t love to cook but I bet you could find some to make these delicious all-American dishes.

Peppermint, Peanut Butter, and Salted Caramel Bark Tins - $9.99 each
Yummy….that is all that needs to be said.

Dixon Insulated Wine and Cheese Tote - $29.99
Great gift for the wine connoisseur or cheese fanatic. Plus this will come in handy if you enjoy evenings at the Hollywood Bowl.

Zoku Single Pop Maker - $24.95
How neat is this gift? You want your very own popsicle, then no problem.

Menu Vignon Decanter - $19.95
This handy decanter is perfect for wine at the house or bring it to your local restaurant when ordering a bottle of wine.

Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp - $19.95
This is great for someone who walks in the evening, camps, works on cars, or the handyman at home.

Fischer XC Sport Cross-Country Poles - $24.95
Another great outdoor adventure gift.

Lonely Planet The Travel Book Pictorial - $20.19
So maybe someone is not as adventurous but they still can live vicariously through these photos.

Day 7 - Secret Santa:

Continuing with the inspiration from Dwight at Dunder Mifflin, let’s have a Yankee Swap. Ok, well maybe it doesn’t have to be as ruthless as Dwight’s game. Here are some gift ideas under $30 that are great for everyone!

Santa’s Secret Sauce Flask - $9.99

Fun gift for the fun person in the office!

Gorillapod Original - $19.94

Most people have a digital camera or even a smart phone for taking pictures. This tripod can attach to any device (just need to buy different adaptors). Also, the tripod can attach to any place from light-poles, side-view mirror, and more.

Macro Cell Lens Band - $15.00

Continuing with the idea of the photographer in all of us, this great attachment to any smart phone with a camera is perfect!

Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook - $22.19

So maybe everyone doesn’t love to cook but I bet you could find some to make these delicious all-American dishes.

Peppermint, Peanut Butter, and Salted Caramel Bark Tins - $9.99 each

Yummy….that is all that needs to be said.

Dixon Insulated Wine and Cheese Tote - $29.99

Great gift for the wine connoisseur or cheese fanatic. Plus this will come in handy if you enjoy evenings at the Hollywood Bowl.

Zoku Single Pop Maker - $24.95

How neat is this gift? You want your very own popsicle, then no problem.

Menu Vignon Decanter - $19.95

This handy decanter is perfect for wine at the house or bring it to your local restaurant when ordering a bottle of wine.

Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp - $19.95

This is great for someone who walks in the evening, camps, works on cars, or the handyman at home.

Fischer XC Sport Cross-Country Poles - $24.95

Another great outdoor adventure gift.

Lonely Planet The Travel Book Pictorial - $20.19

So maybe someone is not as adventurous but they still can live vicariously through these photos.

Comments
Food:
Week 8 - So I skipped a week to relax a little but now I am back! To start things off again I chose a recipe that doesn’t require a whole lot of work. From Simplyscratch.com I selected No Bake PB Choco-Oatmeal Cookies. For the recipe I did not have shredded coconut on hand so I just added a bit more oatmeal. Below is the recipe.
Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups White Sugar
1/2 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Salted Butter
4 tablespoons All Natural High Fat Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup {heaping} Crunchy Peanut Butter
2 cups Old Fashioned Oats
1 cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes
1-1/4 teaspoon Real Vanilla Extract
Directions:
Line two baking sheets with a silpat liner or wax paper.
In  a medium saucepan; add the sugar, butter, milk and cocoa. Stir and  bring up to a rolling boil. The second it reaches that rolling boil,  start a timer for a minute and thirty seconds {keep stirring!}.
When  the time is up, remove from the heat and while stirring add in the  vanilla, oats, coconut and lastly the peanut butter. Mix until the  peanut butter is melted and all the ingredients are combined. 
Using  a teaspoon, measure out two spoonfuls per cookie onto the prepared  pans. Let cool for an hour or until they are easily removed using an  offset spatula. 
Store in an airtight container.

Food:

Week 8 - So I skipped a week to relax a little but now I am back! To start things off again I chose a recipe that doesn’t require a whole lot of work. From Simplyscratch.com I selected No Bake PB Choco-Oatmeal Cookies. For the recipe I did not have shredded coconut on hand so I just added a bit more oatmeal. Below is the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups White Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Salted Butter
  • 4 tablespoons All Natural High Fat Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 cup {heaping} Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • 2 cups Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1 cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon Real Vanilla Extract

Directions:

  1. Line two baking sheets with a silpat liner or wax paper.
  2. In a medium saucepan; add the sugar, butter, milk and cocoa. Stir and bring up to a rolling boil. The second it reaches that rolling boil, start a timer for a minute and thirty seconds {keep stirring!}.
  3. When the time is up, remove from the heat and while stirring add in the vanilla, oats, coconut and lastly the peanut butter. Mix until the peanut butter is melted and all the ingredients are combined.
  4. Using a teaspoon, measure out two spoonfuls per cookie onto the prepared pans. Let cool for an hour or until they are easily removed using an offset spatula.
  5. Store in an airtight container.
Comments
Day 6 - Office Party:
Yes, Dwight may look super amazing with fake elf ears and an elf hat but perhaps you can show him up at your own office party.
If your company has splurged to rent out a banquet hall, just meeting at a nearby restaurant, or has a potluck planned, here are three outfits to get you through…appropriately.
Potluck Luncheon
This kind of party is actually in the office so remember that any dress code is still important to follow. Think comfy, casual, and a little quirky. So yes, if you have Christmas light earrings then go ahead and wear them, just don’t overdo it with a light up Christmas sweater as well.

Short Sleeve Tie-Neck Glimmer Tee from Banana Republic

Marisa Modern Bootcut Pants in Stretch Velveteen from Ann Taylor Loft

Minnow Drops from Anthropologie
Dinner Party at Nearby Nice Restaurant
I imagine this setting at a nice steakhouse or Italian restaurant. Here you can dress up a little more and may even bring a guest so you definitely want to look your best. Brighten your everyday boring office look with some bling!

ASOS Pencil Dress with Scallop Detail

Nine West Cress Platform Pump

Gold Medallion Twist Bracelet from Ann Taylor Loft
Banquet Hall Party
This is the type of party where there will be dinner, dancing, and lots of socializing. Here you dress up and be a little more luxurious. You could select from an outfit that is fun and flirty or something more refined.
Option #1

ASOS Chiffon Panel Dress

Torn Tapestries Headband from Anthropologie

Nine West Cordy Platform Pump
Option #2

French Connection Sequin Minidress

Jessica Simpson Brook Pumps

Water Lily Clip from Anthropologie

Day 6 - Office Party:

Yes, Dwight may look super amazing with fake elf ears and an elf hat but perhaps you can show him up at your own office party.

If your company has splurged to rent out a banquet hall, just meeting at a nearby restaurant, or has a potluck planned, here are three outfits to get you through…appropriately.

Potluck Luncheon

This kind of party is actually in the office so remember that any dress code is still important to follow. Think comfy, casual, and a little quirky. So yes, if you have Christmas light earrings then go ahead and wear them, just don’t overdo it with a light up Christmas sweater as well.

Short Sleeve Tie-Neck Glimmer Tee from Banana Republic

Marisa Modern Bootcut Pants in Stretch Velveteen from Ann Taylor Loft

Minnow Drops from Anthropologie

Dinner Party at Nearby Nice Restaurant

I imagine this setting at a nice steakhouse or Italian restaurant. Here you can dress up a little more and may even bring a guest so you definitely want to look your best. Brighten your everyday boring office look with some bling!

ASOS Pencil Dress with Scallop Detail

Nine West Cress Platform Pump

Gold Medallion Twist Bracelet from Ann Taylor Loft

Banquet Hall Party

This is the type of party where there will be dinner, dancing, and lots of socializing.
Here you dress up and be a little more luxurious. You could select from an outfit that is fun and flirty or something more refined.

Option #1

ASOS Chiffon Panel Dress

Torn Tapestries Headband from Anthropologie

Nine West Cordy Platform Pump

Option #2

French Connection Sequin Minidress

Jessica Simpson Brook Pumps

Water Lily Clip from Anthropologie

Comments

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