If I could capture with words my gratitude for all the wonderful moments in the last 12 months, I’m pretty sure I would explode the internet. (Take that, Kim Kardashian’s butt.)
This year has opened my heart in ways that I couldn’t have imagined, challenged me in ways that I’m so grateful for, and given me more joy than I ever believed possible. It has been a year of growth in every aspect of my life, of forcing myself every single day to be better than I was the day before.
2014 gave me more knowledge, insight, and pure love than would have thought possible twelve months ago. It was both the toughest and the single happiest year of my life.
Merry Christmas to those of you who’ve been with me every step of the way. There were two million eyes on this blog in 2014, and that’s a number I can’t even wrap my head around.
I don’t say it enough, so for those of you who are reading, please know: Of all the things I’m grateful for, you guys are right at the top of the list. You’re my companions on this this crazy journey we call life, and you guys are way more than just readers, or even friends. You’re our giant extended family, and a huge part of our lives. Thank you so much to each and every one of you for your support, encouragement, and advice throughout the year.
I’m going to be taking a few days off to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, but I can’t wait for 2015. If this year was any indication, it’s going to be a wild and wonderful ride.
So, last year, I faced the ultimate culinary challenge: a holiday meal for a dozen people.
And you’d think that would be a huge success, right? People do this all over the world, and it goes off without a hitch, so this Saveur-endorsed expert will have no trouble, right? The girl who’s piped eclairs and rendered duck fat and baked cakes from scratch?
Sure, you would think so.
And you would be wrong.
Don’t those potatoes look so great? Sure, they do. They look terrific.
But my guests, the ones who were supposed to be eating them for Christmas dinner last year… what did they get?
Oh, sorry. They got a bunch of burned potatoes.
And, you guys… I feel like I have some story to tell, but there’s no story here.
I was six months pregnant. I didn’t have a crying baby to look after or a seven-month sleep deficit.
I just tried my best at a holiday dinner, and… well, I burned the potatoes. In fact, I burned everything. The details aren’t really important, so let me just say: it was inedible. I spent all day cooking, and there was literally no edible food on our table. We didn’t even save the leftovers — and, yes, there were plenty. They went straight into the trash.
I felt awful. I felt so badly about ruining Christmas dinner that I could hardly talk about it for months — Chad had to pretend, every time I brought it up, that really, it wasn’t so bad. Sure, the potatoes were tossed into the garbage, but, even a holiday dinner sometimes goes awry; people understand. No one starved.
And as our family was leaving (after I’d given them enough dessert and wine to ensure they weren’t still actively hungry, even if they weren’t quite full), my mother in law told me that the first time she’d cooked for her husband’s parents, she’d done the same thing. She’d spent all day in the kitchen, planned a perfect menu, and then burned the whole thing.
And, you know what? Someday I hope to tell this story to our son’s wife. Some holiday, many decades from now, when I see her (and him! I’m raising a man who cooks, if it’s the last thing I do) take on the incredible effort of a holiday meal and see it go wrong, I’ll share this story. I’ll tell them about that time, a few months before he came into this world, when I bit off more than I could chew and came up just a little bit short.
And I’ll tell them about how we all laughed about it the next year (while eating the store-bought backup dishes I’m ordering this time around).
So, this year, turn on the Christmas lights. Open a bottle of wine. Play some great music and take a moment to focus on the faces of the people around your table. Because life goes by really fast, and this year’s burned potatoes are next year’s funny story. And a decade later, they’re a treasured memory of a time you tried and failed; a time you were just human and not superwoman.
The holidays are a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends, and one of the best ways to get into the spirit of the season is to throw a holiday party! Even if you don’t host friends regularly year-round, everyone’s inner host or hostess comes out as the holidays roll around. But the trick for entertaining with a smile is to keep things festive but still relaxed — so I’ve pulled together a few of my favorite tips for holiday hostessing!
Set the Tone with a Festive Theme
Holiday parties come in all shapes and sizes: from a fancy catered office party to having a few girls over at home. If cocktail parties are your thing, go right ahead, but also consider some outside-the-box that your friends will enjoy: anything from a cookie-decorating party, a tree-trimming bash, or a girls night in with your favorite holiday movies.
Think Beyond Saturday Night
Inevitably, everyone wants to throw their holiday party on the same Saturday night: before everyone goes out of town, but after everyone gets into the feel of the season. Unfortunately, that means that people get booked for those prime holiday weekends way in advance, and your guests will likely be party-hopping all night. My solution? Pick an “off” night — a Thursday or Friday evening or even a Sunday afternoon — to avoid fighting for prime holiday hours and ensure all your friends can be in attendance!
Serve a Signature Beverage
Sure, you can serve wine and beer and call it day… but this is a holiday party, so why not try something a little more creative? One way to enjoy festive drinks (but not turn yourself into a one-woman bartender all night) is to pick one signature beverage and do the prep work ahead of time. If you’re serving, say, mulled cider with cinnamon sticks and a splash of Kahlúa (and now that I’ve mentioned it, gosh, doesn’t that sound like the perfect thing to serve?), you can prep it a day in advance and then just warm it up before your guests arrive.
Get a Helping Hand
And on that note: if you’re having more than, say, twenty people, consider getting a little help. A helping hand can go a long way, whether it’s some prepared food that you pick up before the party, a bartender to make sure everyone’s glass is full throughout the night, or hiring a cleaning service to swing by the next morning.
When the Doorbell Rings, Enjoy Your Own Party!
It’s tempting to be the perfect hostess who stays up all night whipping up canapes from scratch, and some of us really enjoy spending time and energy on homemade treats. But, you know what? Your guests might oooh and aaah over those fancy dishes you spent hours on, but at the end of the day, what they really want is time with you. Not the exhausted, up-all-night, can’t-leave-the-table-unattended-for-ten-seconds you, but the you who’s ready to catch up, to ask them how work is going, and to sip a cocktail with a smile. Sure, parties take work, but they should be fun, too. Don’t be too busy throwing your holiday party to enjoy it.
You know my favorite part of every party? When there are a few friends left, at the very end of the night. When you’re done answering the door and refilling people’s drinks, and you can just sit down, relax and just talk. And you know what? That’s the best time for one last drink, that you can sip slowly and linger with over good conversation. So for that moment, when it’s just a few of your good friends left, when you want to keep the party going a little while longer, I give you: the Midnight Kiss.
The Midnight Kiss
4 parts hot coffee
1 part Kahlúa
1 part vanilla vodka
1 part skim milk
Stir together the Kahlúa, coffee, vodka, and milk and pour into teacups. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, and serve.
The best cocktails are sipped responsibly. When you’re hosting holiday parties and all year round, don’t overindulge and never drink and drive!
Disclosure: I have been compensated for this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
There are very few things I love more than a chocolate truffle. It’s one of the few recipes that tastes better when it’s a little sloppy and homemade — there’s something so incredibly delicious about this easy, handmade recipe.
Besides, how could a recipe that just uses three ingredients not be irresistable? I bet you have most of these in your kitchen now — what better excuse to make them for your Golden Globes viewing party on Sunday?
I’m so excited for these videos — they’re a lot of work, but I’m having a ton of fun learning how to do them! If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
12 ounces chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract For toppings:
In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and vanilla for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the cream and stir for approximately 4 minutes, or until smooth.
Refrigerate for 2 hours. Roll each truffle into a ball between your palms, and then roll them in the toppings. Serve and enjoy!