music & mixes: holiday edition


I’ll admit it– I’m one of those people that decorate for Christmas by Thanksgiving and blast holiday music in November. While all the sleigh bells jingling and silent nights make me and the kids giddy, it’s downright torture for my husband. His office also starts their Christmas countdown on Thanksgiving, and by Dec. 1 he wants to pack every Fa La La and push it off a ledge. I’ve been forced to get creative so I can get my music fix without my husband jumping out of the window.

Here are a few alternatives for those of you tortured by the same holiday music by the same artists, day in and day out.

Jack Johnson- Someday at Christmas

Vampire Weekend- Holiday

Weezer- O Holy Night

She & Him- Christmas Waltz

The Ravonettes- The Christmas Song


While I can overload on holiday music, one thing I couldn’t overdo if you paid me is eggnog. Here are a few holiday drink alternatives:

I. Love. Coffee. I’m especially in love with Coffee-mate’s new Natural Bliss line. If you haven’t checked out the ingredients in your creamer lately, you’ll be amazed when you do. Each word has about 14 syllables and none of it sounds edible. Natural Bliss coffee creamers are just milk, cream, sugar and natural flavors…with a side of delicious. It has no additives, preservatives or artificial ingredients and comes in three flavors: Caramel, Sweet Cream and Vanilla. My favorite are Vanilla and Sweet Cream. I’m one of the 3,000 bloggers that fell in love with it at BlogHer, now I can’t go back (with the exception of Pumpkin Spice. I look forward to having that in my coffee all year!)

You can use Natural Bliss Vanilla to add a twist to a White Russian and get your coffee flavor and cocktail fix all at the same time:
1 1/2 ounces vodka

3/4 ounce coffee flavored liqueur (Kalua or illy Espresso Liqueur)

3/4 ounce Coffee-mate Natural Bliss Vanilla

One of my favorite new holiday cocktails I found online this year is a little time intensive to prep, but once you have the syrup down you’re good.

Spiced Silver Bell:

1 1/2 oz Camarena Silver Tequila

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Cranberry Spice Syrup*

2 oz Ginger Beer

Lime Wheel for garnish

Cranberry Spice Syrup:1 1/2 cup Brown Sugar3/4 cup Water3/4 cup Water
4 Cinnamon Sticks
1 t Whole Allspice
1 t Whole Clove
1 T Orange Zest
1 cup Fresh Cranberries
Place all ingredients in saucepan over medium low heat. Stir continually until skins of cranberries begin to pop and they easily mash with back of spoon. Lightly mash cranberries, but not so much to create “sauce.” Remove from heat. Strain into heat proof container. Allow to cool. Refrigerate.

If you’re trying to watch your waistline, you can try this Hot Toddy with a Twist courtesy of Shape Mag. Takes 5 minutes to prep and is just over 200 calories.

24 oz water
2 T cloves
2   cinnamon sticks
3   star anise
1 T crushed allspice
1   nutmeg, whole
3⁄4 oz agave
1 oz honey water (combine equal parts honey and water)
1⁄2 oz lemon juice
6 oz Johnny Walker Black Label

Bring water to a simmer on the stove.  Add cloves, cinnamon and star anise. Crush allspice and nutmeg and add to water.  Add Agave and lemon and let simmer for approximately 10 minutes. After it’s simmered add honey and stir to taste. Pour into a glass and add 2 oz. Johnny Walker Black Label.  

If all goes well this December, I’ll have many nights surrounded by family, great holiday music and even better holiday cocktails!








our analog christmas

I remember being so amazed when my then 15-month-old son slid his dad’s iPhone on, went through his games, found a field goal game and scored a few before we even knew what hit us. A year and a half later, I have to pry electronics away from his tiny little kung-fu grip.

This Christmas we’ve decided to go old-school: nothing digital, no screens, no batteries. We’re looking at active toys that spur imagination, inspire creative play and encourage problem solving so our son can have opportunities to create his play world.

And so begins my obsession with Melissa & Doug.

I love the learning mats (they work wonders when you go out to eat or have a restless toddler waiting for dinner).











Finally a play kitchen that isn’t mandatory Pepto-pink!  FYI– Boys dig kitchens, too.









My son loves these travel games. He gets his memory-game fix without being on the iPad (iPhone, iPod, etc. etc.)













Who knew these would still be cool 20 years later? Apparently, our parents were on to something.

My toddler and baby are entertained for hours by building blocks.The best part? I’m not worried about BPA or cell phone radiation.

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