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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! 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! 

I got a head start this weekend on holiday baking, who says pies are just for Thanksgiving day? I’m a big of fan of individual-sized desserts (as evidenced here and here), after a heavy meal and lots of snacking, I always still want dessert, but just need a little taste to tie me over. So I made the recipe for classic pumpkin pie (I use a top secret family recipe…the one printed on the Libby’s pumpkin puree can!) and used a mini-muffin tin to bake the ingredients off in bite-sized pies. Mini-pies just weren’t cute enough though, I had to up the adorable factor and  use my alphabet cookie cutters to spell out a little a seasonal message. I think I’m going to do the same thing for Thanksgiving later this week! What kind of recipes are you baking up for the holidays?

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The lovely folks at Calypso St. Barth invited me this weekend to preview the new store in Chestnut Hill at The Street, and it’s absolutely darling. First off, they have a great collection of resort wear that had me craving a warm weather getaway. And it was  great to hear that despite being a national brand, they support local designers and has some beautiful jewelry pieces from local Boston artisans. They kindly helped me pick out a few things for myself, and to say I fell in love with the cashmere v-neck sweaters is an understatement — I mean, I might actually live in these in for the  rest of the winter.  Be sure to check them out if you’re in the neighborhood!

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 Sweaters gift c/o Calypso St. Barth, all opinions are my own. 

 

I’ve never been much of a winter boots girl — despite almost 10 years living in Boston. I’ve always opted for rain boots during New England winters because of the slushy mess I tend to trudge through during my commute. Recently, I got sent a pair of adorable Joules rain boots to take for a test run and I absolutely love the patterns they come in – stripes, florals, even a darling fox print (plus the mid-height boots are perfect for those who are vertically challenged like me!). The cheery floral pattern I chose makes having to weather a gray day just a little more tolerable. I’m eyeing a pair of the striped rain booties next!

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Wellies c/o Joules USA, all opinions are my own.

I was brainstorming some new appetizer ideas that were easy to make in advance and came up with a simple formula for a snack that has some variety, without requiring tons of grocery shopping or dirty dishes. I purchased some frozen puff pastry dough, thawed, rolled and cut it into 2″ circles. Then I experimented with a few combinations of filling: herb goat cheese and rosemary sea salt, blue cheese crumbles and a drizzle of organic honey, and my favorite combination, slices of heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with fresh parmesan cheese. All three combinations got some fresh cracked black pepper on top as well before I rolled up the sides to resemble bite-sized -tarts.  After following the baking directions on the puff pasty box (375 degrees for 10-15 minutes), they came out of the oven golden brown. These lasted about 3 minutes from plate to table at a family party I brought them to, which I think means they were pretty good? I’d love to hear what combinations of fillings you might try!
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One of the very last stops we made on our cross-country road trip honeymoon was a walk down Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice Beach, and on that lovely little stroll ending our two-week adventure, we popped into LemonadeLA and tried their tasty drinks and cookies. So when I saw that the Lemonade Cookbook was being published this fall, I jumped at the chance to take a peek through it! I can tell the SoCal vibe of the recipes will be perfect come summertime, and in the meantime I tested a more seasonal recipe — their oatmeal raisin cookies —  which went over quite well at a family get-together last weekend.

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Cookbook gifted to me c/o Lemonade LA, all opinions are my own. 

I think is going to be my first post where I claim the ‘holiday season is upon us’ — because I officially saw them rolling out the roasting pan displays and racks of Christmas decorations at Target last night!  I did a little DIY project a few weeks back to create a custom chalkboard and I think this idea is perfect for adding a little rustic touch to your holiday decorating. It’s as simple as this: I found the tree stump slices at Michael’s and painted them freehand with black chalkboard paint, leaving a little border around the edge to show some of the wood. I think they would be just perfect for writing out your holiday dinner menu on, sharing your signature cocktail recipe (like I did below) or even a thoughtful note about what you’re thankful for at Thanksgiving.

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Photography (Image 2) by Bring to Light Photography and Florals by Little Flower Cottage

I have one more recipe to share from our apple-picking porch party that was featured on SMP Living last week — and this one combines my two favorite things, gooey baked cheese and sweet apples. The best part about this recipe? You can make it the night before and freeze it, just pop it in the oven before guests arrive! I’d be lying if I said we didn’t eat the full wheel of brie between the few us gals — it was delectable!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, sliced in thin pieces
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Royal Rose’s cardamom clove simple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Wheel of brie (6 to 8 oz)
  •  Frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten for wash
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Combine apple, sugars, simple syrup and spices in saucepan until apples are fully coated and sauté for 4-5 minutes while stirring. When sugars start to bubble up, remove the mixture from the heat and let cool.
  3. On a floured surface, roll out thawed puff pastry dough and cut into a 10″ circle.
  4. Cut the wheel cheese in half horizontally, place bottom half off cheese wheel on the rolled out pastry dough, top with 1/2 of the apple mixture. Place the second half of the cheese wheel on top, and cover the top with the remaining apple mixture.
  5. Working in a circular fashion, begin to wrap and fold the pastry dough around the brie, leaving some room at the top for the apple compote to show.
  6. Brush the dough lightly with one beaten egg, and then bake off in the oven for 35-40 minutes on a baking sheet, or until the crust is a golden brown.  Let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting, and serve warm with a crusty baguette or crackers.

All images by Bring To Light Photography

I’m still so excited over our apple-picking porch party that was featured on SMP Living last week. And it’s not a party without a signature cocktail — our autumn apple punch was a perfect pairing for our tasty treats. We mixed up Bulleit Rye, apple cider, and cardamom clove simple syrup with a squeeze of lemon juice and served them in mason jar mugs with an apple garnish. I’m not going to lie, we had quite a few of these that weekend, and they were so darn delicious—I had to share the full recipe with you below!
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Ingredients:

  • Apple cider
  • Bourbon or Rye
  • Royal Rose’s cardamom clove simple syrup
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Ice
  • Apple for garnishing
  1. Combine 3/4 cup of apple cider, 1/3 cup of bourbon or rye and 1 tsp of cardamom clove simple syrup over ice.
  2. Squeeze a slice of fresh lemon juice into the mixture and divide into glasses.
  3. Garnish with a fresh apple slice.

All images by Bring To Light Photography

What a wonderful little Friday treat, a shoot I styled with Bring to Light Photography and Little Flower Cottage is up on Style Me Pretty Living today! Click on over to read about our little apple-picking porch party with lots of tasty apple-inspired treats. And be sure to check back next week — I’ll share the details of my recipes for an Autumn Apple punch, a baked brie with apple compote, and other treats like salted caramel apples and mini mason jar apple pies!

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