Archive of ‘Holidays’ category

how to build your own hot chocolate bar

With people rotating in and out of our homes this time of year, I love to have hot chocolate and a few treats on hand to make everyone feel comfortable and special. A hot chocolate bar is one of my favorite ways to do this.

Hot Chocolate Bar | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Stocked with an apothecary jar full of hot cocoa powder, homemade marshmallows, candy canes, and Christmas cookies, everyone can build their perfect cup of hot cocoa with little hands-on time from the host or hostess. Last year, I created a hot chocolate bar for a baby shower I hosted for two friends and ended up leaving it out for the rest of the season, replenishing the toppings after visits with family and friends. It made the perfect welcoming touch and was so fun to have on hand!

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows with Peppermint | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Hot Chocolate Bar | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows with Peppermint | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

I usually place my electric kettle and some fun holiday mugs around the spread so everything is ready whenever guests decide to partake. A 1-tablespoon measuring spoon and a small whisk with it’s own plate to catch drips are two easily forgotten, but helpful items for measuring the right amount of cocoa and getting rid of those pesky clumps. One trick my mom taught me on snow days when I was younger is to pour the hot chocolate mix into the mug, add a little bit of hot water, and whisk to create a thick, almost syrup-like mixture. Then add the rest of the water for your perfect mug of cocoa. This process makes sure there are no lumps of unmixed cocoa powder floating at the top of your otherwise beautiful mug.

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows with Peppermint | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Hot Chocolate Bar | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade marshmallows aren’t necessary, but they make a huge statement for the small amount of extra effort it takes to make them. I went with plain marshmallows this year (just substitute vanilla for the peppermint in these peppermint ones), with some dipped in chocolate and crushed peppermint, but in the past have made peppermint, gingerbread, eggnog, whiskey, and amaretto flavored marshmallows for a fun treat! While the bar transforms into a hot chocolate station, don’t worry about moving all of the alcohol. I like to leave the liqueurs that make for tasty spiked hot chocolates, like Irish cream, hazelnut liqueur, coffee-flavored liqueur, and peppermint schnapps.

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows with Peppermint | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows with Peppermint | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

To create your own hot chocolate bar like this one you will need:

  • Hot chocolate mix (powder, homemade, or piles of chocolate shavings, like this)
  • Hot water or milk in an electric kettle or air pot
  • Marshmallows
  • Candy canes
  • Cookies (I included my favorites from this year – brown butter ginger cookies)
  • 1-tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop the hot chocolate powder
  • Small whisk and a plate or bowl for it to rest on after people use it
  • Mugs
  • Fairy lights
  • Flavored liqueurs

While you may not think designing a bar cart is much like decorating a room, it takes more zhushing than I sometimes think it will. It is a fun way to start small and work your style into your holiday decor, or just your rooms in general after the holidays. Sometimes it is hard to move past the small pieces of decorating and see the big picture, or tackle a whole room. I have heard so many people talking about affordable online interior designs, like Havenly, recently, which seems like a great mid-way point between designing your own bar cart and designing your own room.

I can’t wait to settle down this weekend and fix my perfect cup of hot chocolate – who said it was only for guests? ;) What are your favorite hot chocolate toppings? Anything I should add to my rotation?

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows with Peppermint | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.comThis post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Pass the Cookies.

 

local gift guide for the triangle

As much as I love the gift guides for all categories that can easily be shopped from the couch, there is something great about supporting local businesses this time of year. Many readers are local to the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill), but even if you aren’t I hope this gives you some ideas for how you can find local gifts in your area too. This last week before Christmas, run out to these stores and pick up your last minute gifts, while still supporting local businesses. If you don’t have time to get to the store, some of these are on Amazon Prime (Write the Word Journal, Counter Culture Coffee, and Greenwich Bay Trading Company soaps and lotions, to name a few).

Triangle Local Gift Guide | Pass The Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

North Carolina felt pennant from The Zen Succulent in Durham. This mother-daughter store has a Durham pennant and other great home items and pretty terrariums, too. They even offer local delivery of some of their potted plants around the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. If you are looking for flowers to gift in Raleigh, hop downtown to Wylde. They have beautiful arrangements, wreaths, and small gifts for the flower lover.

High Cotton ties and bow ties. This Raleigh company has the cutest ties and bowties for all of the stylish men (or those you want to force a little style on ;)) in your life. Their holiday line is so good that I’m having trouble picking a favorite!

Cultivate What Matters Write the Word Journals and gift cards (these would make a great stocking stuffer!). I have the “Cultivate Renewal” Write the Word Journal and have loved using it throughout the year.

Greenwich Bay Trading Company holiday soaps and lotions. Greenwich Bay Trading Company is a family-owned business in Raleigh. Their holiday collection of soaps and lotions always smells so good, and is wrapped in paper so pretty, all you need to do is add a bow. They don’t sell their soaps from their own website, but you can find them on , on this website, and at many local stores in Raleigh (I usually see them at Zest and now at The Local Squirrel).

Shops for various, unique, local gifts:
DECO, The Local Squirrel, Steven Shell Living, Form & Function, Union Camp Collective in Raleigh
Chet Miller, Parker & Otis, and The Makery at Mercury Studio in Durham

Raleigh bakery tour - croissants, morning buns, hot chocolate, and more.

Raleigh bakery tour - croissants, morning buns, hot chocolate, and more.

Food gifts:
Pretty pastries and fresh bread from Boulted Bread, Yellow Dog Bread Company, and Lucettegrace in Raleigh, or a pie from East Durham Pie Co. or Scratch in Durham. If you haven’t tried a loaf of bread from Boulted or Yellow Dog, or the hot chocolate at Lucettegrace, you don’t know what you are missing. In our opinion, the best bread in the Triangle is from Boulted and Yellow Dog, so get it while it’s hot! Pick up a freshly made loaf of bread made from just-milled grains and tie a bow around it for a nice hostess gift, or grab a box of amazingly flaky and delicious pastries for your holiday guests. You can’t go wrong at any of these places! In case you missed it, I did a bakery tour of Raleigh last year with my family and featured all three shops in this post.

Raleigh bakery tour - croissants, morning buns, hot chocolate, and more.

Chocolate from Videri Chocolate Factory or Escazu Artisan Chocolates in Raleigh. The bars from both of these small factories are delicious, but for a beautiful gift, put together a box of truffles (this makes a great hostess gift or treat for your guest room). If you want a more unique way to gift Videri, grab a bag of their hot chocolate (it is amazing!), or a chocolate box subscription! Both of these local chocolate shops have brick and mortar and online stores, but Escazu bars can also be found in Whole Foods around the Triangle as well as local co-ops, markets and grocery stores in the Triangle and around the country (find the list of retailers here). I have to say though, if you have a chance to stop by their downtown Raleigh locations, it is worth seeing the beautiful confectionaries at Escazu and the behind-the-scenes of a chocolate factory at Videri while you pick up some delicious local gifts.

2017 September Goals | www.passthecookies.com

Coffee from Counter Culture Coffee in Durham (they have a limited edition winter blend, “Iridescent”). Counter Culture Coffee can be found at lots of local grocery stores and coffee shops in the area. Find it in Whole Foods stores across the Triangle (I have seen it in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill stores), at Jubala Coffee, and Sola Coffee Cafe in Raleigh. In Durham you can find it at their headquarters, and at Durham Coop. In Chapel Hill, stop by Perennial Coffee to buy some. I have also seen it at several Harris Teeter stores throughout the area. For those not local to the Triangle, Counter Culture is all over coffee shops in the US now and can be ordered online!

Big Spoon Roasters nut butters. I love their almond ginger, chai spice for this time of the year, but you can’t go wrong! I have seen their nut butters in Whole Foods, at the Durham Farmers’ Market, Bean Traders in Durham, Johnny’s Gone Fishing in Carrboro, NOFO in Raleigh, and tons of other locations. Don’t live in the Triangle, but want to try the magic of these nut butters? Lucky for you, they are sold online and at hundreds of local shops around the country too!

Brewery Bhavana

Beer from a number of local breweries, including, but not limited to Lonerider Brewery (Sweet Josie is one of our favorites), Trophy Brewing Company, Crank Arm Brewing, Big Boss Brewing Company, Fullsteam Brewery, Ponysaurus Brewing, Carolina Brewery, Steel String Brewery, YesterYears Brewery, Top of the Hill, and Brewery Bhavana. If your gift recipient is local to the Triangle as well, grab a pack of beer or a growler from a specific brewery and pair it with a brewery tour for a fun experience you can have together. While not a brewery, a gift card to Raleigh Beer Garden is a great experiential gift for the beer lover. The atmosphere at RBG is great, and with three floors of beer on tap and the largest draft beer selection in the world, there is something new for every beer aficionado!

A few of these links are affiliate links, but all of these companies are those that I love and support.

Last photo from Brewery Bhavana

gift guide for stocking stuffers under $25

Opening stockings on Christmas morning has always been one of my favorite traditions. I love sitting by the fire, looking around at all of the pajama-clad family members in the room, and watching them pull out all of fun gifts. It is amazing how many surprise goodies can fit in such a small space! The first Christmas we were married, Will and I decided our only gifts to each other would be whatever we could fit into our stockings for $20. We got really creative with what we gifted that year (and Will got a lot of stroopwafels ;)). With a similar budget in mind, this gift guide gives ideas for stocking stuffers under $25, with most under $15.

Gift Guide for Stocking Stuffers Under $25 | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

| Gloves | Scarf | Ultimate Strength Hand Salve | Art Print | Portable Phone Charger |
| Nail Polish | Socks | Velvet Bows | Clay Mask | Ball EarringsJournals |
| Lavender Candle | Cotton Cocktail Napkin Roll | Stay All Day Lipstick |

Warm weather accessories:
Gloves (especially classy tech gloves), socks, and scarves make great stocking stuffers that can be used immediately in the cold winter weather. These are great to pick up throughout the season and are versatile enough to gift to so many people. (more…)

gift guide for the active adventurer

You may be wondering why “the active adventurer” is a category. As I was putting together this gift guide, I found that a lot of gifts for the athletic friend overlapped with gifts that a travel-lover would use as well. Whether she is trying to look cute coming from the gym or the plane, the items on this gift guide for the active adventurer are for any kind of on-the-go girl on your list.

Gift Guide for the Active Adventurer | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

| Pullover | Dry Shampoo | Teleties | Sports Bra | S’well Water Bottle | Scarf | Sleep Mask |
| Duffel Bag | Lavender Essential Oil Roll-On | NY Times 36 Hours Book | Reflective Gloves |
| Gripper Socks | Holiday Athletic Socks | Athleisure Leggings | Reflective Leggings |

Reflective Gear
I always keep reflective gear in my gym bag now that it is dark out whenever I have time to run. With reflective strips circling each leg, these reflective leggings would be perfect for running on these cold, dark winter days. As a runner, I look all over the place for reflective tights every year (they don’t seem to improve as much as I would like from year to year), and these are the most reflective I have seen on the market. For a smaller price and amount of reflectivity, these gloves would be great! (more…)

sparkling pomegranate punch cocktails

We are almost halfway through December – are you holiday partied out yet?

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Cocktails | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

I have been to a few parties and gatherings, and have a few more on the docket before Christmas, but I’m feeling good about the pace so far. Some years my introverted self gets overwhelmed with all of the holiday get-togethers. I have found that, while it can be more work to host a party, I sometimes prefer being the host to being a guest. When I host a party, I’m guaranteed to know everyone I invite, which takes away the stress of making small talk with strangers, and even if I have to go back and forth to the kitchen, I often feel more relaxed in my own home than I do somewhere else. (more…)

2017 gift guide for the baker

I truly love making these gift guides each year. They are filled with wish list items, fun ideas that I sometimes end up using in my own Christmas gifting, and items that I am passionate about that I want other people to have the chance to use too. This list is filled with some of all of those, but mostly with things I am extremely passionate about and want to share with the world! I have (and love) some version of almost every item on this list, and have received most of them as gifts. As a recipient, I can tell you that they all make great presents, and as a (mostly) food blogger, I can tell you they make great tools. Below, you’ll find my thoughts on some, which I would recommend for novice bakers and casual chefs vs. those who are more experienced in the kitchen, and where you’ve seen some of these items on the blog before :)

Gift Guide for the Baker | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

| Bake From Scratch Magazine Subscription | Medium Cookie Scoop |
| Goldtouch Nonstick Baking Pans | KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Oven Mitts (1, 2) |
| Peppermint Extract | Gold or Copper Measuring Spoons | Gold Whisk | Walnut Turner |
| Marble Board | Farmhouse Batter Bowl | Tartan Silicone Spatula |
| Christmas Cookie Cutter | Odd-Sized Measuring Cups |

Bake from Scratch Magazine Subscription – I’m sharing the best cookies I have made all year (that is not an exaggeration) so soon, and the recipe was based on a cookie in the Bake from Scratch Holiday Cookies edition. The photos in these magazines are beautiful and I always add tons of recipes to my “to try” list when I flip through them (you can tell it’s good when the pages are covered in flour and vanilla stains). I just got the Holiday Cookie edition this year, but loved it so much that a subscription to this magazine is on my gift list this year (hint, hint). Another great option in this category is a new cookbook. There are so many great ones that have come out this year, and you can match this to their personality. (more…)

2017 gift guide for him

Is it just me, or is it always difficult to shop for guys? I searched high and low for husband, brother, and dad-approved gifts for the men in your life this year and I hope this gift guide for him can help give you some ideas for the guys.

Gift Guide for Him | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Yeti
Yeti’s have been around for a while and I have heard many people sing their praises, but was reminded at how crazy hot or cold they keep your drinks when my dad brought one on a car trip and left it in the car. It was still the same temperature when we remembered it a few hours later! At a decent price-point, these make great gifts for the most difficult guy on your list. (more…)

baked brie with mulled wine-soaked fruit

Remember that delicious mulled wine we made last week? We’re repurposing it today for a stunning, but amazingly easy holiday appetizer: baked Brie with mulled wine-soaked fruit.

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Baked Brie with Mulled Wine-Soaked Fruit | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Around the holidays, I find myself running around like crazy, trying to do everything I possibly can with every group under the sun. Next Saturday alone I am meeting up with five groups of people for five different events from 9am-11pm. I know it is a crazy schedule, but I love all of the people I get to see and have fun at every event, which makes it difficult to cut back. But doing everything and being everywhere can be exhausting, and leaves me with no time to prepare. That is one reason I love this baked Brie so much – while it looks fancy, you can have this app ready in 15 minutes! (more…)

2017 gift guide for the hostess or entertainer

Next up on our list is a gift guide for the hostess and the entertainer. These are all small gifts that are easy to bring with you to the holiday parties you inevitably have scattered throughout December. Hostess gifts can be a fun opportunity to branch out and find a unique or luxurious item that your friends usually wouldn’t buy for themselves. Since they are often small, you can find something great without breaking the bank.

Gift Guide for the Hostess

| cocktail napkins | holiday oven mitt 1, 2,3 | pretty matches | reindeer candle snuffer | candle |
| milk frother | brass candlesticks (more modern ones here) | sugarfina box |
| cheese markers | pretty plate 1, 2 | box of tea forte | serving board | ceramic pour over |
| monogrammed mug | reindeer bottle opener |

I love combining some of these fun items with something homemade, to make the gift more personal. The host and/or hostess put so much time and effort into cleaning, cooking, prepping and decorating, so I like to do anything I can to make the gift a fun, but thoughtful one. Some of my go-to hostess gifts are a pretty plate filled with homemade cookies (shortbread is the easiest and so tasty!), a unique cutting board topped with a homemade loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread, or a round of scone dough and a bag of locally roasted coffee to make the next morning a little easier. While you could definitely gift any of these items on their own as a beautiful hostess gift, I’m going to do something different here and give additional ideas on how you could pair some of them with other items, sometimes homemade, sometimes not, to make them even more special. (more…)

2017 gift guide for her

It is the time of year to make your list and check it twice! I have a few gift guides to share over the next few weeks to help you find a great gift for everyone on your list. Today, we’re kicking it off with the gift guide for her!

Gift Guide for Her | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

While everything in the collage, and just about everything in the slider below, is under $100, with lots of under $50 options, there are items across lots of categories and price ranges to provide ideas for what to get all your favorite girls: your sister, mom, bff, or maybe yourself.

2017 Gift Guide for Her | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

| pom beanie (similar here and here) | striped pouch | earrings | velvet top | leggings |
| tassel charging keychain | diffuser (sold out – find here and here) | velvet sneakers |
| striped pajama set | weekender bag | socks (sold out – similar here) | gloves |
| leopard card case | vest | plaid scarf (similar here) |

The items in the photo are some of my favorites, but there are lots more ideas in the slider below, too!

I love all of the cold weather accessories that are out right now. Cute glovespom pom hatsscarves (plus a less expensive version), and fun socks are great gifts for any girl in your life. It is often easy to find cute, affordable options for these, too (two of the beanies linked are under $15!)!

(more…)

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