Sleigh Bells Ring…

While I have many favorite Holiday traditions I like to participate in year after year with my friends and family- two of them, without fail- always happen earlier in the month when I’m still coming off the fringes of Thanksgiving weekend. I’m talking about visiting the local tree lots and nurseries outside the city- particularly when they’ve only just started putting out their seasonal items and decorations.

To me, it’s the first real taste of Christmas- and the smell of pine needles, mint and spices always puts me in a festive mood and gets me ready to hang up my lights, grab some eggnog, and start wrapping presents. Although I’ve had an artificial tree for as long as I can remember- I’m hoping someday I’ll be able to commit to a real one. I would have done it this year, but I had heard there was a shortage of trees as a result of the recession a few years ago- so spending an insane amount of money on one was out of the question. Maybe next year!

Regardless, I still stopped by Russell’s Garden Center this past weekend to check out their selection (and marvel at their impressive nutcracker collection!)

My other favorite tradition, and the trick is to timing it just right so you can avoid all the pedestrian traffic- is going to see the HUGE Christmas tree in Faneuil Hall and catch one of it’s timed light displays every half hour. Sean and I headed down right before the last display of the evening this past Saturday night- and although there were quite a few people milling around near some of the bars in the area- we were still able to get nice and close to the tree to snap a few uninterrupted photos and videos.

And of course, as is tradition- we met up with our friend Chris and proceeded to start the long walk to and through Boston Common and down the illuminated Commonwealth Avenue. The city always does such an amazing job with the lights- and I know it’s going to look even more beautiful if and when we get the first legitimate snowfall of the season!

I’m looking forward to sharing photos of my own Christmas display after I’ve finished decorating my tree and my windows this coming weekend. They are nowhere near as elaborate as the ones around Boston- but they’re still nice!

But I’ve just got to make it through the rest of this week, first. Halfway there already!

Enjoy your Wednesdays, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

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Festive Foodie: Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

Well hello! It’s another early Monday morning and after a busy few days packed with overtime at my office last week- I’m ready to slow things down a little and get to work at a steadier, calmer pace. The holidays can be crazy enough- what with trying to get holiday shopping done, balancing party plans, and making sure I don’t indulge in too many Christmas-inspired sweets- so I’m trying to keep any work-related stress to a minimum if it’s possible.

So when I stumbled across this “set it and forget it” style crock-pot recipe for cocoa late last week- I knew it was something I wanted to try during my downtime over the weekend. Anything that is advertised as a “drinkable brownie” is right up my alley!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • A dash of vanilla extract

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Pour all of your ingredients into your slow cooker/crock pot. Lightly stir.
  2. Cook the ingredients on low for 2 hours.
  3. Whisk everything really, really well.
  4. Add marshmallows, whipped cream (or both!), sit back in your footie pajamas by the Christmas tree- sip and enjoy!

Creamy, super-chocolatey and indulgent- this cocoa hit the spot after a long afternoon out in the cold with my friends on Saturday. I think the next time I prepare this, I might use mint-chocolate to give it a more seasonally-appropriate taste- but this is definitely going to be my go-to recipe when we start having some serious blizzards here in New England, because I couldn’t think of anything better to enjoy while I’m bundled in blankets and warming up after shoveling the snow!

xx

– Ashley –