November 2016 archive

gingerbread scones

We’re kicking off the holiday season in our home with warm gingerbread scones, twinkling lights and Christmas music!

Gingerbread Scones |

I hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing, and grateful Thanksgiving. We enjoyed time with family catching up and soaking in the moments together, hence the quiet around here. I am excited to get back in the swing of things with gift guides and delicious recipes for the most wonderful time of the year! :)

Gingerbread Scones |

Gingerbread Scones |

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year and I get so excited about it every year. I love the music, traditions, lights, generosity and flavors that come along with it and plan my December weekends far in advance to fit in the most cheer I possibly can. One of our Christmas morning traditions is to have fresh, warm scones as we empty our stockings and sit by the fire in our pajamas, sharing gifts with each other.

We get up around 7:30am and don’t eat brunch until we are done exchanging presents with everyone and marveling over our favorite gifts, which can be near 11am. Small, warm scones are the perfect way to ease into the early morning and tide us over until the later meal (they also keep us from eating all of the candy in our stockings so early in the morning ;). In order to have fresh scones, we make the dough ahead of time and stick it in the fridge until Christmas morning. On Christmas morning my dad sticks them in the oven right when he comes down. This prevents any stale scone tasting, which no one wants.

Gingerbread Scones |

Since the uncooked dough keeps well, we often gift rounds of scone dough to neighbors and friends, so they can have an easy and fresh treat on their December mornings as well. As I mentioned in my gift guide for hostesses, breakfast baskets are one of my favorite hostess gifts, and I love including scone dough for them to enjoy the next morning with no effort.

Gingerbread Scones |

Gingerbread Scones |

When I thought about gingerbread scones, I knew I wanted to make them soft, flakey and buttery, with the tastes and smells of fresh gingerbread. I tried so many variations and love how these turned out. These gingerbread scones have the warm spices of traditional gingerbread cake or cookies, but in a soft pastry that flakes apart as you break it. They are light and fluffy on the inside, but dense enough to be filling. Warm out of the oven, with a pat of butter is the most amazing way to eat them.

Gingerbread Scones |

I love that gingerbread scones can bring joy to so many people throughout the season. They are so easy to make ahead for holiday breakfasts and brunches, coworkers, neighbors, friends and unexpected visitors. Just pop them in the oven while your coffee brews, or wrap them in a tea towel and give them away to make everyone’s mornings merry and bright.

Gingerbread Scones |

I’m so excited about all this season brings, and excited to share recipes like these gingerbread scones that I hope can bring happiness and holiday cheer to your home this season, too.

Make sure to see the note about the molasses to get the best outcome.

Gingerbread Scones
Makes 12-16 scones

1 ½ cups butter (3 sticks)
4 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
4 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons molasses*
½ cup milk
turbinado sugar, for topping
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

*I tested this recipe with Grandma’s unsulphured molasses and with store brand molasses and Grandma’s had a far better flavor. Since the molasses plays such a crucial role in the flavor of these scones I would suggest using a higher quality molasses.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour mixture while it is still very cold. If the butter has gotten warm with the heat of your hands or from being on the cutting board too long, stick it back in the fridge for a few minutes before adding it to the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using two knives, a pastry cutter, or breaking the pieces of butter up with your fingers (my preference). The mixture should resemble a course meal when you are done. Do not mix too much and overwork the dough.

In a small bowl, combine ½ cup of milk with the molasses. Add the liquid to the flour-butter mixture and mix until just combined and the dough starts to stick together. You should be able to work the dough into a ball. Again, do not overwork the dough, otherwise your scones will be tough. If the dough is too dry, add more milk, one tablespoon at a time.

Lightly flour a cutting board or a flat surface and transfer the dough to your surface. Split the dough in half, roll each half in a ball and pat them into 6-inch rounds that are about 1 to 1 ½ inches thick. Cut each round in half, then cut each half into 3-4 triangles (like a pie) and place the dough on your prepared baking sheets, a few inches apart from each other.

In a small bowl beat the egg and one tablespoon of milk together. Brush the egg wash on top of the dough, sprinkle with turbinado sugar and bake for 12-18 minutes (depending on the size of your wedges). The scones are done when the edges begin to get golden and the tops bounce back when you press a finger into them. They will continue to set as they cool, so they may not look fully done. If you wait until the entire scone is golden they may be overcooked. Let the scones cool on the tray for about 3 minutes, then remove them from the tray and serve immediately.

Scones don’t save very well, but one-day-old leftovers can be reheated in a microwave oven or an oven. Add some butter and they are as good as new.

These can be made ahead of time (perfect for a holiday breakfast or an unexpected guest!). Stop after you pat the dough into rounds and wrap each round of dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to bake and serve. They can be made a week in advance.

Adapted from my favorite scone recipe

gift guide: for the hostess

I hate to jump the gun on Thanksgiving and post holiday gift guides, but hostess gifts are often relevant for Thanksgiving as much as they are for the holiday party season that follows. So many people travel or join family and friends for Thanksgiving that hostess gifts are just as useful for Thanksgiving visits as they are for Christmas parties. Below is a roundup of some of my favorite gifts for the hostess this year. Almost all of them are $35 or less! :)

Gift Guide for the Hostess |

Serving board – There are so many pretty serving boards on sale right now, from marble to wood to slate. These are perfect for the seasoned hostess who always has the components of a cheese board in her fridge. Cute cheese knives or cheese markers would be the perfect topper to this gift.

Coasters – I love these pretty Draper James coasters. They are elegant and classy, and give a nod to the South on top of it all. Pretty work, Reese.

Candles – Over the past few seasons I have grown to love candles burning in my kitchen, living areas and bedroom. There is something relaxing and soothing about a wonderfully scented candle and it’s soft light. There are a ton of great scents this time of year, but I tend to gravitate toward the pine and Christmas tree smells, rather than the super sweet scents. The beautiful jars around some of the candles only need a bow to be fit for giving!

Candle holders – I have often thought about giving candles as hostess gifts, but after seeing so many lovely candle holders I almost think these are the winner. They can reflect many styles and would make an easy and beautiful display for any home.

Coffee table book – There are so many awesome coffee table books that you can get for a great deal. One of my favorites right now is Styled by Emily Henderson. My mom sent me this decorating and personal style book earlier this year and I love reading it before bed or when I’m killing time on the couch before I have to head out for the morning. The gold leaf adds a fun element and looks beautiful on a coffee table.

Cocktail/appetizer cookbook – When I host events I am always worried about the menu. Will there be enough sweet foods and enough savory options? Are my appetizers tasty enough? Is there a good variety of foods? What should we serve to drink? A good appetizer or cocktail recipe book would solve that issue for many hosts and hostesses who think like me ;)

Ornament – Whether you add one to the top of a gift, to a bottle of wine that you bring, or just bring a pretty one on it’s own, an ornament is always a great option for a holiday party hostess. I love the mercury glass ones as a safe, pretty bet, but if you know the host/hostesses personality there are some cute unique ornaments that would be so cute to give. I think this deviled egg ornament is hilarious.

Guest book - I hadn’t thought about using a guest book at home before, but recently stayed at a home with one and read about someone else’s great tradition of using one when people stayed with them in their home. I love the idea of people leaving their messages for the loving host and/or hostess and can’t think of a better person to give this to.

Soap + soap dish – One year a coworker gifted me an adorable soap dish and a pretty bar of soap, tied together with a ribbon. It was a simple gift, but I still use the soap dish every day. Pretty soap is an easy way to pamper your friends, and with so many of them wrapped in beautiful paper, you just need a ribbon to finish it off.

Tea or coffee – Loose tea is one of my guilty pleasures. The flavors of nicer tea’s are usually tastier than the tea bags I use on a regular basis, but because it is more expensive, I don’t buy them very often. A small combination of loose teas or nice tea bags along with a tea infuser or a bag of nice coffee is a lovely, affordable way to pamper a host or hostess and gives them something to relax with after the hubbub of the party is over. Tea Forte is a favorite in our home, and these Christmas flavors are sure to be great. And with so many great local roasters around us, we love getting and gifting locally roasted coffee beans to hostesses and in stockings.

Breakfast supplies – One of my favorite hostess gifts to give is a breakfast basket for the morning after the party. Include a pancake or waffle mix, or even a homemade breakfast treat (my go-to are scones and quick breads), alongside jam, syrup or local honey, all wrapped in a pretty holiday tea towel, and they lucky hostess doesn’t have to lift a tired finger in the morning. This is great paired with the tea and coffee as well. We visited Sarabeth’s while we were in New York in August and everything was amazing, so I would be so excited to give (or receive) the cafe’s pancake and waffle mix!

I hope this helps you as you make your way to your Thanksgiving destinations and start thinking about the holiday hostesses in your life.

pumpkin pie cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting

Happy Thanksgiving week! The big week of gratitude and feasting is in full swing, with turkeys thawing, tables decorated, and family traveling from near and far. You probably have your menu ready to go and your groceries prepped, but this pumpkin pie cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting is well worth adding to the dessert spread.

Pumpkin Pie Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting |

Pumpkin Pie Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting |

I am so excited to share this cake with you. The idea is based off of Momofuku Milk Bar cakes, with their multiple layers and components that combine to make a delicious, unique cake. The flavors of this cake meld together better than I even imagined and the different parts can all be made ahead of time, so you can get started today and have it ready for turkey day without stressing. (more…)

link love

It’s Friday, which means link love is here! This week has been a bit strange for me because I got my wisdom teeth removed on Wednesday. Since the day was more than halfway over by the time I got out, and because I have had to take it way slower than I am used to, I haven’t been able to figure out what day it is at all. This morning I thought it was Thursday, but I know tomorrow is the weekend – I’m all out of whack. I’m hoping the weekend will help me get on track and help me prepare for the shorter week next week. Speaking of that, I can’t believe we are already almost to Thanksgiving week! I hope this week’s roundup of pie tips and recipes is helpful as you prepare! :)

link love 11.18.2016

To start off our link love this week, this interactive page provides great quotes about thankfulness and Thanksgiving, which could be helpful in the coming week as you decorate the table, send messages to friends, or talk to coworkers in the office. You can choose different kinds of quotes to fit what you want (funny vs. classic, long vs. short, etc). I think it would be cute to place some around the Thanksgiving table to start discussions of what we have to be grateful for.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I would absolutely eat these creamy smoked gouda brussels sprouts if they showed up on my Thanksgiving table. I know a lot of people don’t like brussels sprouts, but I am a brussels sprout lover and would dive head first into this dish. What sides are you making for the big day?

On Thanksgiving morning this year, Will and I, along with most of his extended family, signed up to run a turkey trot (or a gobble wobble, as this one is called). I have never run a sanctioned race on Thanksgiving, as we usually just run on our own, but I think having the entire family involved will be fun. Bonus points for matching t-shirts at the end ;) There are so many turkey trot races on Thanksgiving morning and I think this Runner’s World article has an interesting way to break some of them down – by oldest, most competitive, coolest scenery, etc. Wouldn’t it be so cool to run along America’s first public road, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the place where Thanksgiving started?

Now that we have talked all about Thanksgiving, I’m going to throw in the briefest of Christmas cheer. Don’t be mad because Thanksgiving hasn’t happened yet, this is worth the watch. Maybe it’s the pain medicine I’m taking for my mouth, but I seriously cried when I watched this Marks and Spencer commercial. Mrs. Claus and children with British accents will always win.

The last link I’ll leave you with for the weekend is the new trailer for Beauty and the Beast. It doesn’t come out until mid-March, but I’m already excited about it!

Have a lovely, relaxing weekend before all of the prep and celebrations next week!

the great pie roundup!

Pie Roundup and Tips | Pass the CookiesCan you believe we are in the single digits for our countdown to Thanksgiving?! With only 8 days to go, we are right in the thick of planning and prep time. One part of the Thanksgiving feast that can be made ahead of time or at the very last minute are the desserts. Many desserts keep well in the fridge or freezer, or can be assembled and baked easily the day before or the day of the big meal, making them a great course to start prepping when you can’t start on anything else, or to finish on when you need something to turn out well in the midst of the scramble to finish the sides. Even if you are not hosting Thanksgiving this year you can help out. Pies travel easily and take some stress off the host, who is likely elbow-deep in a bird – offer to bring dessert. Easy as pie, right? ;)

Though “easy as pie” can be a misnomer, there are some easy and delicious pie recipes that even the novice baker can accomplish. Bake it in a pretty pie plate and wrap it with a dish towel and you have your contribution to the meal and your hostess gift all in one! Multitasking is the way to go this time of the year. To take some stress off the host/hostess, the novice baker, and even the experienced pie maker, I have gathered pie recipes of all varieties. Fruit pies, chocolate pies, nut pies, pumpkin pies, modern takes on classic pies, you name it, we have it here in our thanksgiving pie roundup. You can even use store bought crusts if you don’t want to deal with homemade pie crust – I won’t tell (but please get Pillsbury; the store brand crusts are no good).

Pie Roundup and Tips | Pass the Cookies

Pie Tips and Tricks
Before we get to the recipes, let’s start out with some tips from master pie bakers. The two biggest tips across the board: use very cold butter and don’t overmix your dough. Cold butter and shaggy dough are your friends here.

  • Sprinkle any prepared fruit (cut apples, peaches, etc.) with sugar and let them sit for a few minutes. Then drain off any juice that runs. This will avoid a soggy crust. — Saveur
  • Baking your pie on the bottom rack will ensure that bottom crust gets nice and golden brown. — Bon Appétit
  • A wash is essential to give pies a burnished crust. — Martha Stewart To find the picture perfect wash for your pie, check out the photos in the link.
  • Joy the Baker is one of my go-to’s for pie making tips. She takes us through the steps to make the perfect all-butter pie crust (as opposed to using shortening, or a combination of fats to make the dough).
  • Martha Stewart’s pate brisee is one of my all-time favorite pie crust recipes. It is buttery and simple, which makes it great for any pie you might make this holiday season.

Pie Roundup and Tips | Pass the CookiesPie Designs
Now that we know how to make a perfect pie crust, let’s learn how to make the pretty designs to make your pie the envy of the dessert table.

We know how to make pie crust, how to pretty up our pies, now let’s get the pie recipes so we can get started in the kitchen! (more…)

maple candied pumpkin seeds

These maple candied pumpkin seeds are the easiest, quickest fall and holiday treat ever. They would make the perfect snack for Thanksgiving Day, your friendsgiving and holiday parties, or a great gift for hostesses and coworkers.

Maple candied pumpkin seeds |

I made a batch of these to use as a garnish on fall desserts, but Will and I ate all of them before I could make the desserts the seeds were supposed to adorn. My original plan was just to post these as part of a larger dessert, but they were so good on their own that I didn’t want them to get lost in the big picture and have the holidays go by without giving others a chance to try them. So, these special maple caramelized pumpkin seeds get their own post. They deserve it.

Maple candied pumpkin seeds |

It is almost embarrassing how easy this treat is, which is another reason I hesitated to show it as it’s own post, but easy is ideal during this busy time of the year. With only 5 ingredients, the caramelized seeds take 30 minutes tops to make. I get my pepitas from Trader Joe’s, but if pepitas are too difficult to find, or you just prefer other nuts and seeds, use what you like instead. I think this recipe would be great with pecans mixed in as well, or in place of the pepitas. This treat is perfect for snacking on as you prepare food for your big meal, or graze the cheese board throughout the day. A jar filled with maple caramelized pumpkin seeds or nuts and wrapped in a pretty tea towel makes a beautiful and tasty hostess gift for any holiday gathering, or lovely party favors for your own party.

Maple candied pumpkin seeds |

The maple syrup and cinnamon encapsulate the warm, sweet, spiced flavors of fall, and the toasted pumpkin seeds covered in hardened syrup provide a delicious crunchy texture. You can top your pies and cakes with them, as I originally planned to do, but they would also be an amazing addition to warm baked Brie. Now all I want to do is dip a cracker into ooey gooey Brie with crunchy sweet maple candied pumpkin seeds. Yummmmm.

Maple candied pumpkin seeds |

These are so fast and so easy that nothing should hold you back from making them asap!

Maple Candied Pumpkin Seeds
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
generous pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups pepitas (or other nuts – pecans would work well)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small saucepan placed over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Stir regularly as you bring the mixture to a simmer. After it begins to simmer let it cook for another 3 minutes, continuing to stir frequently.

Add the pepitas or other nuts and stir to coat the seeds/nuts in the maple syrup mixture. Cook for about 3 more minutes, again stirring regularly.

Pour the seeds and maple syrup mixture onto your prepared baking sheet and use a spatula to spread them flat into one layer. Bake for 6-10 minutes, watching the seeds closely so they don’t burn. The seeds will become toasted and puffy when they are done.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the seed/syrup mixture cool completely removing from the pan. This only takes about 30 minutes. The candied seeds will harden as it cools so you can break up the seeds into clumps. Store your maple candied pumpkin seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Maple candied pumpkin seeds |

link love

link love 11.11.2016 via

We’re checking in today. It has been a difficult week and I would be stretching it if I said “happy Friday,” as I usually do in these link love posts. We are getting there and will get back to that soon, but it seems odd to continue with regularly scheduled programming with everything that is going on right now. This week we were torn out of our bubbles and echo chambers to the shocking election result that no one predicted, but also to the reality that our nation is deeply divided. The result was so unexpected, which has made it harder to wrap my mind around it. It wasn’t predicted to happen this way. But, here we are. Many of us have gone through a range of emotions since Tuesday night – shock, disbelief, anger, fear, sadness, disappointment, and for some, happiness. This week has been a time of grief and healing for some and surprising celebration for others. As Hillary said in her speech on Wednesday, “this is painful, and it will be for a long time.” But she also said, “this loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

It is our job now to keep open minds, and try to learn why others voted for the opposite candidate, so we do not fall into quick judgemental thoughts and hypocrisy, so we can have hope in our nation, and so we know the right ways to reach other with our beliefs. It is our job to love love love everyone and fight for what we believe in – for equality for all, and to stand up for those we love who can easily be marginalized and persecuted in these talks of hatred. So, after we take time to heal, it is time to get to work. To love and to speak up. I hope these links bring healing, understanding, or joy to you this weekend.

These three posts on how we feel post-election and on keeping an open mind to and understanding other’s motives and thoughts.

Algorithms, virtual bubbles and physical bubbles prevented us from correctly predicting this election. We disproportionately saw the information that matched what we believed, which led us to believe results that differed from the final election reality.

One more on the election, then we move on. This article is a good one on what to tell the children, especially those who fear they will be marginalized.

On Thanksgiving, we are supposed to be running a race with all of Will’s family. I have been running more this week because of it, but also because it is a time to get away and clear my mind. This article on the science behind the mind-clearing power of running was poignant for my experience.

Will and I don’t watch much tv (or Netflix, rather), but we have a few shows that we love. We are following along with Madam Secretary and just started watching Designated Survivor (which is great so far), but I have heard good things about The Crown, too. Is it any good? Should we add that to our list?

I hope you find some joy, some love and some kindness in your day, even if it is in the form of a warm drink in a red cup.

7 thanksgiving table setting ideas

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away (how did that happen?!!!!) and it is time to start planning and prepping, especially if you have “friendsgiving” celebrations before that! I am excited about some of the posts that will be coming between now and turkey day, and about the posts in the weeks to follow that. I try not to get too excited about Christmas before Thanksgiving comes, but sometimes knowing Christmas is coming is what I cling to when I feel stressed in November. So, these pre-Thanksgiving posts will hopefully help limit stress and help us focus on Thanksgiving as a day for family, gratitude and of course, food.

Today we have lots of options for how to prepare your table. Whether it is your first time hosting the food-centric holiday, your third time hosting your friendsgiving celebration, or your 30th time hosting the whole extended family, there are Thanksgiving table setting ideas for everyone. I think my favorite table setting is the “Rustic Elegance” one, but I love a good transferware plate too.

Most, if not all of these use greenery as their centerpiece, some mixed with flowers, fruits, vegetables or candles (or a combination). To keep costs down, gather greenery from plants around your yard. In a pinch, Trader Joe’s sells greenery for $2-$3! Easy and budget-friendly.

A tip, if you are hosting Thanksgiving and using a different table than your everyday kitchen table, you can set the table in advance, which will give you one less thing to worry about when dinner is ready and family is buzzing.

Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas - Silver Metallic
Silver Metallics

Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas - Gold Metallic
Gold Metallics

Thanksgiving Table Ideas - Dark Modern

Dark Modern

Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas - Natural Neutrals
Natural Neutrals

Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas - Traditional Reds
Traditional Reds

Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas - Rustic Elegance

Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas - Rustic Elegance
Rustic Elegance

Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas - Turkey Transferware
Turkey Transferware

Photo sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

What is your favorite Thanksgiving table setting?

spiced cranberry cider punch

Spiced cranberry cider punch is the perfect fall drink for all of your Thanksgiving festivities.

Spiced Cranberry Cider Punch |

Over the weekends the temperatures dropped and it finally feels like fall is finally here to stay! I don’t want to jinx it, but I love the cooler weather, especially in the mornings. It was difficult to grasp that Thanksgiving was only a few weeks away when it was so warm out, but now I’m joining the turkey day hype! This spiced cranberry cider punch is perfect for friendsgiving parties and to serve during thanksgiving prep.

Spiced Cranberry Cider Punch |

Spiced Cranberry Cider Punch |

The spices and flavors of the cider and cranberry juice are so seasonal and tasty together. One great thing about this punch is that you can customize it and make it your own. You can swap the cranberry juice for pomegranate juice, switch the ginger beer with ginger ale, add rum or leave it out. All of the variations are delicious, and the spiced simple syrup takes each combination to the next level.

Spiced Cranberry Cider Punch |

With only two and a half weeks until Thanksgiving, I am starting to gather recipes, tips and tricks that I am so excited to share with you. I love that this spiced cranberry cider punch can be spiked or virgin. I sipped on the virgin version of it this weekend as I planned out pretty pies and lovely libations and I can add in the rum while we cook dinner later this week and be perfectly content with both. It is great for kids and adults.

Spiced Cranberry Cider Punch |

Spiced Cranberry Cider Punch |

This recipe makes about 4 large drinks, or about 6-8 smaller drinks (all with ice) and can easily be multiplied for a larger crowd. It is perfect for big groups because you can pour it in a punch bowl and let people serve their own drink, instead of being a slave to the bar, when you really want to be attending to the turkey. It is easy, spiced and delicious. You can even make it ahead if you are prepping for the big day, just hold the ginger beer until right before you serve it so it doesn’t go flat.

Grab a glass, pour yourself some punch and let’s begin the Thanksgiving prep!

Spiced Simple Syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks
rind from one orange (optional)

Spiced Cranberry Cider Punch
3 cups apple cider
1 ½ cups cranberry juice (or pomegranate juice)
1 1/3 cup ginger beer
1/3 cup orange juice (optional)
1 cup rum (optional)
2/3 cup spiced simple syrup*
cranberries, for garnish

*If you use pomegranate juice and/or ginger ale, you may want to reduce the amount of spiced simple syrup, since those are both sweeter than the original ingredients.

To make Spiced Simple Syrup
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine all of the simple syrup ingredients. Constantly whisk the mixture until the brown sugar completely dissolves. Let the mixture simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool completely before using. The simple syrup can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for a few days. If you are making it ahead of time, leave the spices and orange rinds in until just before you use it, to get the maximum flavor out of them.

To make the Spiced Cranberry Cider Punch
In a large punch bowl (or mixing bowl), stir all of the ingredients together, adding the ginger beer last. The amount of rum (if any) is up to you – add more or less, depending on how strong you want it. Taste the punch and add more simple syrup, cider, or cranberry juice, depending on how strong your ginger beer is. As noted above, you can swap cranberry juice for pomegranate juice, or use ginger ale instead of ginger beer, but since pomegranate juice and ginger ale are both sweeter than the original ingredients, that variation may require less simple syrup.

I used spiced cider from Trader Joe’s (it is the best!), but if your cider is not already spiced, it might be worth boiling the cider with the spices used in the spiced simple syrup to add even more flavor to your drink.

link love

I can’t believe Halloween was this week. I don’t know about you, but this week seems to have lasted forever for me. So much happened and the week isn’t over! Monday was Halloween, which came with lots of excitement and trick-or-treaters; Tuesday was get-everything-done-now day, because on Wednesday President Obama came to Chapel Hill and the timing was such that waiting in line and seeing him speak took most of the day. Then the Cubs won the World Series on Wednesday (super late a night), which was also huge. Thursday was catch-up from Wednesday while running on fumes, and here we are at Friday, with me looking at a work event all day tomorrow. It has been exhausting, but also so exciting. Now that we are at the weekend though, it’s time for some link love!


Did you see that a Hamilton Mixtape came out for pre-order today? There are so many celebrity singers on the album singing the original songs, and some songs that weren’t included on the original soundtrack. I have been obsessed with Hamilton for a few months now, so I’m so excited to hear the mixtape. In case you need your fix, two songs from the album were released today!

It seems like the whole country has been following along on the Cubs’ journey to the World Championship. Even for a non-baseball fan, it has been exciting to see the celebration around the team and the championship. Since it has been 108 years since the Cubs won the World Series, all of their fans have been waiting for their entire lives to see them win. These elderly fans cheering on the Cubs as they win the game bring so much joy, no matter what team you follow. Watching them brought such a huge smile to my face.

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away! Eeek, I can’t! There are so many great resources this year to help prep. Food52 has a quiz to create your perfect menu, based on your likes, dislikes, traditions, and even oven space. It is so cool! I’m not even making Thanksgiving dinner and I have taken the quiz multiple times.

Similarly, this infographic flowchart helps determine which turkey and sides are perfect for you, based on your answers to a few (fairly hilarious) questions. I think my favorite questions are “turkey’s not even that great, right?,” and “do you have judgey family and friends?.” The answers to “how do you feel about arm hair are pretty good too. I took it twice, with different (but still true) answers to a few of the questions, and ended up at the Joule Turkey both times, which I think sounds pretty good. It was meant to be. What camp do you end up in?

Not quite thanksgiving, but similar to giving thanks, this 3-second brain exercise is supposed to help us find joy every day. I sometimes find myself focusing on the negative things that happened during the day, or thinking about things that I wish were better but can’t necessarily change. Looking for the joy instead is something I would love to work on in the coming year.

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