My Favorite Things

 Courtesy of Danielle M. Alexander

Courtesy of Danielle M. Alexander

December: a time for celebration, gift giving, and holiday cheer. The month is chock full of fun and festive parties, but what makes the season even more special is everything involved in and leading up to the gathering of friends and family.

As the season approaches, I thought I'd make this month's blog post a bit more personal by sharing some of my "favorite things" for the holidays. Feel free to try one of my favorite recipes, adopt and expand on one of my gift ideas, or comment below with some of your favorites.

Oh, and in the spirit of giving, we've got a special promo from one of our favorite vendors below. Read on for more information.

Happy Holidays!

-DMA

Holiday Recipes

Every family has their set of secret recipes, and every person has their favorite go-to when asked to prepare something for familial gatherings. Macaroni 'n cheese, brussel sprouts, and pumpkin pie are all popular dishes on my list of holiday party potluck requests. Unfortunately, I can't give out my mac 'n cheese or pie recipes, but I'm happy to share this amazing brussel sprouts recipe that's become one of my family's favorites:

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Apples and Bacon

Ingredients

  • 1 pound brussel sprouts
  • 3 slices thick-cut uncured bacon, cut into one-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, cut into medium dice
  • 2 small firm red apples (such as roma), cored and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off bottom core of brussel sprouts, halve lengthwise and place on a large cookie sheet with sides.
  2. Add bacon, onion, and apples. Toss with melted butter, maple syrup and salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast, stirring occasionally for 40-50 minutes or until brussel sprouts are caramelized and apples are tender.
  3. Drizzle with cider vinegar, taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

*Brussel sprouts recipe originally posted on babble.com

 Courtesy of Danielle M. Alexander

Courtesy of Danielle M. Alexander

Now, I don't exactly want to give away all my secrets, but I couldn't share my food favorites and not mention the drinks! Any time I have a Christmas party, I always include a signature drink. Here's an easy recipe for pomegranate martinis, a popular choice for the holidays:

Pomegranate Martini

Ingredients

 Courtesy of Taste of Home

Courtesy of Taste of Home

  • Ice cubes
  • 2 ounces pomegranate juice
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Triple Sec
  • 1/2 ounce club soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pomegranate seeds

Directions

  1. Fill a shaker three-fourths full with ice. Add pomegranate juice, vodka, triple sec, club soda and lemon juice. Cover and shake 10-15 seconds or until condensation forms on outside of shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add pomegranate seeds. Yield: 1 serving. 

*Pomegranate martini recipe originally posted on Taste of Home

Gift Ideas

Like many of you, I try my best to put a lot of thought and meaning into the gifts I give. With all the people I need to buy presents for though, it sometimes becomes difficult to think of something unique for each and every person on my shopping list.

This is where we get creative. One of the easiest ways to personalize a gift is in the packaging. Top each package with a different ornament or personal memento, like a bookmark with their name or a meaningful quote. Make the present stand out by using coloring gift wrap or creating your own artwork on parchment paper. Doing something as simple as adding a hand-written note to a generic gift - and maybe even adding a fun drawing or writing their name in calligraphy on the envelope - is all it takes to make the gift special.

 Courtesy of Greetabl

Courtesy of Greetabl

One of my new favorite card companies that I'll be trying out this year is Greetabl. I'm all about unique gift ideas and personalization, and this company provides all of that wrapped into one. Their mini gift boxes unfold to reveal photos you upload from your phone or computer, and are filled with everything from glitter to candy and candles. Mix and match the packaging and the trinkets included inside - there are so many options that you're bound to find and create something special for any and everyone on your list. I love this unique gift idea and can't wait to send to a few friends this year!

Traditions

Last, but certainly not least, I absolutely love spending time with my family around the holidays. I come from a large family, and owe much of my affinity for event planning to my upbringing. Every holiday, birthday, and milestone was marked by some sort of celebratory gathering. Christmas is always a big deal, as we typically have an average of forty or more guests over for an elaborate dinner. Some years include the addition of a Christmas Eve movie night or a Christmas Day brunch. Whatever the plan, the holiday itself was and always will be dedicated to family.

 Courtesy of Danielle M. Alexander

Courtesy of Danielle M. Alexander

Though I'm always up for a party, our Christmas Day gatherings come only second to my all-time favorite holiday tradition. Aside from the rest of our extended family, my parents, siblings, and I have always made a point to view Christmas lights together. As a kid we'd go to whatever neighborhoods were known for their extravagant light displays; now as we've all become adults, we typically will plan for an evening at the local Zoo lights or other public display.

Last year we all bundled up and took a walk through the Venice Canals here in LA, where the locals decorate their homes every year. It was just the five of us, without the food, music, or extra people involved in our typical holiday dinner traditions, enjoying the scenery and each other's company. It's a simple tradition but - like I mentioned earlier in this post - sometimes it's the festivities leading up to the holiday itself that make the season that much more special.

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A Gift from Me to You

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