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Last night Boston Bloggers hosted an event at Saloon, a cozy speakeasy-style bar, located in Davis Square.  The folks at Saloon invited us in for a Whiskey 101 tasting, and it was such a fun (educational!) experience. Our expert for the evening, Manny, was so knowledgeable, and it was a treat to hear him tell stories about each of the distilleries and histories of the brands. I learned a ton, including the different types of whiskey (we tasted four kinds: Bourbon, Rye, Irish Whiskey, and Scotch), fun facts about some of the regional differences (did you know that Irish Whiskey is spelled with an “e” and Scottish Whisky is spelled without one? Americans spell it both ways, because we do what we want).  I know I’ll be a little more adventurous, and knowledgeable, next time I’m picking a whiskey cocktail off the menu!

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Last week we had our latest Boston Bloggers event at the Sweet bakery. Sweet had a handful of bloggers over for a whole night of cupcake tasting. So, yes, in case you were wondering, it was awesome. We heard from Sweet’s lovely founder and learned all about how the bakery got started, and how it’s evolved over the years. And then we dug-in and taste-tested lots of their classic flavors (like, oh boy, some of the most delicious carrot cake and cream cheese frosting I’ve ever had!), and a few of their new and seasonal flavors — like Guinness butter-cream for St Patty’s day (yum). I think one of the biggest surprises was tasting their gluten-free cupcakes, I had no idea I was eating a gluten-free cupcake until someone told me — they were some of my favorites from the whole event! Thanks to Sweet for hosting us, and letting me fulfill my fantasy of an all-you-can-eat cupcake feast!

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Last night we had an awesome time with the Boston Bloggers group at the cutest South End shop — Farm & Fable. Abby, the owner of the shop, hosted a handful of us for some prosecco sipping, snacking, and late night shopping of her vintage cookbooks and artisan kitchenwares.  After we mix and mingled for a bit, we headed down to the awesome test kitchen space below the store to learn all about mulling wines, and then we all dug in to bowls of coriander, anise, and cinnamon to mix up our own little mulling spice kits to take home! I love a warm mulled cider during the winter, but Abby opened my eyes to something I’ve never tried before: mulled white wine. She mixed hers with a pear brandy and there were a few sweet pear pieces filled with the spiced mixture at the bottom of my cup — I’m ready to try that recipe at home!

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Last week our Boston Bloggers group hosted a little night of pampering at the new Chestnut Hill Drybar location. I’ve been to a handful of blow-dry bars before, and even a few different Drybar locations, but this particular trip totally changed my world. I was commenting to the stylist working on my hair, that it’s super rare for me to get my blow-out to last more than one day, my hair just always looks dirty after sleeping on it. So after some convincing, and a step by step tutorial, she got me on the dry shampoo train. I’ve tried it a few times since the event and I’m a total convert — and now forever grateful to the Drybar for solving a long time hair dilemma!

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Note: I received a free blow-out at this event, all opinions are my own. 

The theme of this weekend can be wrapped up in one word: Carbs. My mom and sister visited for the weekend, and let’s just say we’re a bit of bad influence on each other in the eating department (and I will admit, I’m the ring-leader of the tasty indulgence brigade). We had so much fun and stuffed ourselves to the brim with delicious homemade pasta in the North End, sweet strawberry butter on piping hot popovers, and we rounded out the weekend with a donut tasting from my favorite donut shop – Union Square Donuts. You can go ahead and roll me straight to the gym after work tonight! But it was so very worth it!

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A few weeks ago I was having brunch in the South End with a friend, and we made it a point to stop into the a new shop that I had been hearing about called Farm & Fable. It’s kind of like dying and going to vintage kitchen heaven. The store specializes in vintage cookbooks and serveware, and has an awesome collection of new heirloom kitchenwares — and it is some kind of miracle that I didn’t buy every single item in the shop on our visit. Oh also, they are starting a Cookbook Book Club where all of the attendees make a recipe from one cookbook and bring it for a potluck to chat about the recipes, how cute is that? I’m sad I can’t make the first meeting, but am definitely signing up in the future — that’s a book club I can get behind. If you’re in the neighborhood you must check it out!

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This year, instead of sharing a week of gift guides I decided to mix things up and think a little more local! I’m sharing interviews with local Boston business owners to get their tips for holiday gift giving, entertaining, and attire! Today we’re getting the dish on what to wear for the holidays from the stylish Jessika of Holiday Boutique:

photo 1K: The holiday season is upon us, and with party  invitations piling up, I want to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe so I have something to wear! Any advice for how bring in new pieces that can update things you might already have in your closet? 

HB: I suppose the most obvious answer is accessories!  But think beyond jewelry… I love wearing colored opaque tights this time of year.  Instead of basic black, try red or cream with a staple dress you already own.  Try a vintage fur collars or scarves; a skinny scarf looks super chic folded and pinned —  I like to wear one in place of a necklace with a cashmere sweater.  I’m also mad for shoe clips — they can transform a boring pump into magic.  Also something as simple as a fabulous manicure or professional blow-out can make you feel just as great (sometimes better) than buying a new dress.

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K: In the age of email and text invites, it can often be less than clear what the attire recommendation is at different holiday events. What is your fail-proof outfit advice for holiday party dressing?

HB: Holiday party dressing should be festive and celebratory.  I’d much rather show up to an event slightly over-dressed than under-dressed.  I avoid leggings or denim for evening events and take full advantage of dresses and skirts.  My go-to is generally black this time of year, but I also LOVE mixing in a statement color via a clutch, shoe or even a simple barrette.  Red always pops on black, as does gold and leopard.  Another go-to for me is cream —  I’m a fan of winter whites– especially in lace.  It’s classic and feminine.  If you’re the hostess you’ll have even more freedom to experiment.  Vintage pieces can make an incredible one-of-a-kind statement… try a vintage kimono and ballet flats! Soooo chic!

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K: New Years Eve is my absolute favorite holiday, but I’m a little bored with the glittery cocktail dress look — what kind of looks do you recommend for counting down to midnight?

HB: New Years Eve is a fabulous excuse to do something slightly unexpected or even a little gutsy!  Try a headpiece, hat or turban!  If you want a little sparkle, a sequin beret is a darling choice — especially if the rest of your look is simple.

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K: Any fun trends you’re excited about bringing into Holiday for, well, the holidays? 

HB:   My shop never gets too into “trend”– though this year we are embracing tartan and pom-poms!  A classic plaid cashmere scarf and a knit hat with a giant pom-pom on top is both cute and cozy.  We also love our re-worked vintage fur vests.  For accessories, we’re all about a big, bold vintage inspired pin that can instantly make almost anything feel and look special.  Our hand beaded monogram clutches are uber popular and a major (personal) statement piece.

Thanks to Jessika for all of her great advice! Don’t forget to #shoplocal on this holiday season! 

This year, instead of sharing a week of gift guides I decided to mix things up and think a little more local! All this week I’m sharing interviews with local Boston business owners to get their tips for holiday gift giving and entertaining. Today we’re talking with Sofi, the darling owner of Olives and Grace:  

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K: The holidays mean lots and lots of parties — I’d love to know your advice on what to bring as hostess gift for parties big and small?

OG: I believe the greatest gifts are those that can be shared.  When heading to a party, I suggest bringing a gift box with an assortment of edible gifts that make great additions to a party. Some favorites are locally made Q’s nuts (try the Rosemary and Sea Salt.. perfect compliment to a cheese plate!), Morris Kitchen’s Ginger cocktail syrup (add a splash to a glass of Prosecco), and Lark Cookies of any flavor will be a hit. The Jam Stand has a delicious and unique Blackberry Jalapeño jam that I love, and we just got in a bacon popcorn which I can hardly keep on the shelves.  When you show up with a well-executed foodie-box, you’ll be a treasured guest!

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K: Any good gift ideas for the guys? I have a few tricky men on my list that are tough to buy for! 

OG:  Yes!  The Mason Shaker and Shake, their cocktail recipe book, have been a huge hit this year for men’s gifts.  Guys love a good drink, and now they can play around with muddling, shaking, and mixing up concoctions for at home cocktails.

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K: You have lots of tasty treats in your store — which items to you recommend make it into our baskets for holiday entertaining? 

OG: I get really excited when people buy the Kinfolk Table cookbook, it has about 400 pages of farm to table recipes, shared stories, family traditions, interviews and more.  It is one of my favorite products I’ve ever had the pleasure of carrying in the store.  

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K: What gifts in your shop are you most excited to share with customers this holiday season? Any hot sellers we should be adding to our Christmas shopping lists? 

OG: Tilly Doro jewelry — the designer uses various materials for her pieces, so in one bracelet you might have fabric, brass, and beads. I love all the textures and personalities in her work. Salt Cellars is a husband and wife run company that makes walnut serving boards, we love having them over for demos, and our customers have completely fallen for them. Neighborwoods coasters are another favorite of mine — they make map coasters that have the neighborhoods carved out in cedar.  We carry various cities, and those make incredible gifts.

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Thanks to Sofi for all of her great advice! Don’t forget to #shoplocal on this holiday season! 

This year, instead of sharing a week of gift guides I decided to mix things up and think a little more local! All this week I’ll be sharing interviews with local Boston business owners to get their tips for holiday gift giving and entertaining. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to hit Main Street for small business Saturday this weekend and support local business! First up, the fabulous duo, TJ & Hadley, owners of the Urban Grape:

K: I love to bring a bottle of wine to a holiday party, but sometimes I’m nervous I might bring something that people don’t like … what do you look for in a wine to bring to a party? 
UG:  We tell people who are looking for a wine to bring to a party to look for something that’s fruit-forward — fruity, juicy wines — and something that has a bit of acidity helps too, the acidity makes you want to drink more. It also helps to pick a bottle that’s not a well-known brand, you can learn a little bit about the specific wine and the region or vineyard that comes from, and tell the story of the wine to give the hostess a little background — it’ll make the wine a little more memorable. One other tip: if the wine is supposed to  be served chilled, bring it at the appropriate temperature so if your host wants to open it that evening it’s already ready to go.

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K: What do you look for in a bottle that’s going to make a holiday gift? 
UG: If you’re looking to give a bottle of wine as a gift, and you’re not completely sure what the person drinks, we usually ask people: do they travel to certain places? Do they like certain types of cuisines? That can usually help narrow down a region of wines to start with. It’s also fun to pick a theme, you can put together a sampler back of a few different wines from the same region, or of the same grape varietal to give them a tasting of different types. Or put together a cocktail box that has all the ingredients for a special mixed-drink (and don’t forget fun accessories like a shaker!).
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K: As owners of a wine shop , I assume you’re quite popular and get invited to lots of holiday parties — any good entertaining tips you can share for the holiday season? 
UG:  Our motto is: keep it simple. Focus on quality elements, but keep everything pared down — your guests will feel more comfortable  if they’re not presented with tons of options. We usually stick to serving one signature cocktail, and 2-3 types of wines. People also spend all this time working on a perfect menu or hiring a great caterer, and then they let wine be the afterthought and just buy whatever is on sale — think about the wine just as you would planning the food menu. We tell people to bring in their menu to the shop and we’ll help pick things are going to not just go well with the food, but even elevate it.

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K: My favorite holiday is New Years Eve — what do you tell people who are intimated by picking out champagnes for a New Years Eve soiree? 
UG: Look for sparkling wines made in the champagne method — it’ll give you the taste of a champagne but at a lower price point. Smaller producers will also give you more bang for your buck, their attention to detail will give you a better quality, and they tend to spend much less on marketing than bigger brands and those cost savings get passed on to you. If you find a brand you like, at the beginning of the holiday season, buy a case of it and split it up to bring to various parties, give as gifts, and save some for yourself to enjoy too!
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Thanks to TJ & Hadley for all of their great advice! Don’t forget to #shoplocal this holiday season!