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Thanksgiving Dinner: The Perfect Recipes to Bring With You

Quick! You've been invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a someone else's house and you want to bring something delicious that doesn't involve you crowding into the host's kitchen to use their precious stove burners or oven space. What do you do?!

First: calm down. You've got this. Second: chat with the host and offer to bring something. Then check out these easy recipes that can be made before you go and need little more than a quick warm-up before dinner.

Mulled Wine:

A few of the spices I like to use in mulled wine.

A few of the spices I like to use in mulled wine.

I'm a huge fan of mulled wine during the holidays. It's warm, it smells amazing and everyone seems to enjoy it. That said, who has extra space on their stove to simmer a pot of wine on Thanksgiving? Not this girl. My stove top is usually full of pots and pans for various side dishes. If you've been invited to Thanksgiving at someone else's house, why not offer to bring mulled your crockpot? I know. It sounds crazy, but it works. 

Here's what you do:

I like to use this recipe as a guide, but I usually just add what I have (see: vanilla bean, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, oranges, etc.). You can make it ahead of time on the stove, and either transport it in the crockpot (if you're lucky enough to have those snazzy lid clamps on your crockpot) or you can bring it in a large container (like a giant mason jar) along with your crockpot to keep the mulled wine simmering on an appetizer table or drink station.

The Cheese Plate

So many choices! Ask your grocer to help you create the perfect cheese plate.

So many choices! Ask your grocer to help you create the perfect cheese plate.

This is my go-to option for pretty much any party. On Thanksgiving, hosts always appreciate a way to keep guests entertained while they're tucked away in the kitchen cooking a ridiculously large bird.

Here's what you do:

Simply go to your nearest grocery store and head to the cheese section. I always chat up the staff member working in that section because 1.) they tend know more about cheese than I do and 2.) there's a very good chance they'll let me try a cheese before buying it and I'm not one to turn down free cheese. EVER.

If you grab a varied selection, you should be on the right path. Again, talk to your grocer! They know stuff. I always add sliced salami (like these) and crackers (like these) to the mix because our family loves it. You could easily garnish yours with fruit, fruit spread or honey instead (like Eden does here).

Turkey Stock Gravy:

The beginnings of good turkey stock -- the perfect base for gravy.

The beginnings of good turkey stock -- the perfect base for gravy.

Prepare yourself. I'm about to tell you that it's okay to have someone bring the gravy to Thanksgiving. I know there will be Thanksgiving purists out there who will scoff at this, but who cares?! After spending all day prepping and cooking dinner, sometimes it's nice not to have to wait for fat to separate and deal with giblets. My mom always brings gravy when I host Thanksgiving dinner and I've never had any complaints. I'm returning the favor for my sister-in-law this year.

Here's what I'm doing:

We cooked a turkey last weekend (when we don't host the big day, we still like to get our turkey fix) and I made a variation of this crock pot turkey stock from the caracas. The day before Thanksgiving (this can also be done day of), I'll be using this recipe to make gravy (full disclosure: I haven't tried the recipe yet. Wish me luck.) and refrigerating it. Then I'll just bring it to the party in a huge container and we'll warm it up with in the turkey pan, along with the drippings. Done and done.

Dinner Rolls:

The easiest and most delicious dinner rolls to bring to Thanksgiving.

The easiest and most delicious dinner rolls to bring to Thanksgiving.

Dinner rolls always seem to be an afterthought in our family. I've attempted to make rolls for Thanksgiving in the past and failed miserably. I actually swore off making bread products because of those failed attempts. All that waiting and rising thanks. So, we've always opted for store bought rolls that we could just warm up right before dinner.

Since I'm also bringing the rolls this year, I decided to start looking around for a recipe just in case I could find something worth trying. I came across this recipe for fluffy dinner rolls and thought I'd give homemade rolls another chance. Before I made the turkey last weekend, I tested out the recipe and THE. ROLLS. WERE. AMAZING. The recipe is incredibly easy and it requires very little waiting and rising time. We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen. 

Here's what I'm doing:

I'll be making these rolls right before we leave for Thanksgiving dinner and they'll still be warm when we get to our destination. Depending on the timing for dinner, we may need to warm them for a few minutes before serving. Easy peasy.

Now I want to know: how does your family make Thanksgiving work? Do people bring dishes with them or does the host like to make the majority of the meal? I'd love to hear about your favorite side dishes or pre-dinner goodies to bring to the party! 



13 Ways to Get In the Holiday Spirit

13 Ways to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

There's just something special about this time of year. The rain finally started to fall early this morning (we've had a pretty dry autumn around here) and I can't help but cross my fingers for more. The chill to the air makes time spent inside so cozy and the promise of a little snow in the mountains (I'm serious. Cross those fingers for us, okay?) has me dreaming of winter adventures. 

13 Ways to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

Here are a 13 ways I'm enjoying life as 2013 starts winding down:

  1. Gathering the necessary ingredients to make my home smell delicious.
  2. Brewing lavender tea, thanks to goodies I've stashed away from the Lamm Farm.
  3. Making the holiday rum balls early so they have time to "rest" in the fridge. Yum.
  4. Learning just how easy it is to make your own brown sugar. I mean... come on.
  5. Taking walks in the early evening with my husband and our pup Hank -- even though it's dark outside.
  6. Using eucalyptus and steam to help ward off the sniffles.
  7. Pinning holiday inspiration like a mad woman.
  8. Making comfort food with an autumn-inspired twist.
  9. Creating and buying handmade gifts for family and friends.
  10. Gearing up for another snowshoeing adventure and promising my husband that I will take more snowboarding lessons this winter.
  11. Wishing we could find a friend for Hank the way we found one for our beloved Zen a few years back. Puppies at Christmastime are the best.
  12. Actively looking for friends who are up for hot chocolate dates at my favorite spot in town. Three words: European Sipping Chocolate. 
  13. Decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. While I despise how the holiday shopping season continues to creep toward Thanksgiving, I don't see anything wrong with putting up a few early twinkle lights. Do you?


So what has you loving the season? Any fun adventures planned as the temperatures start to drop or are you content to cozy up by a warm fire? Either way, I vote for closing down 2013 with equal parts inspiration, love and adventure. Who's with me?

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Looking on the Bright Side: A Hike in Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve


As I sat down in front of my computer this morning, a loud rumble shook the house. The look on my pup's face said it all: thunder!The first real storm of the season has hit the Sacramento Valley and, while it's easier to stay put and just keep typing on days like this, I sometimes need a little reminder of the sunnier days of yore.

And by days of yore, I mean approximately 72 hours ago.

This past weekend was perfect. We had a lovely Thanksgiving with family {and hope you all did, as well} and finally broke out of our food-induced haze to head out for a hike on Sunday morning. All of the left-over turkey, stuffing and gravy {not to mention the remnants of that delicious cheese plate} in the world couldn't stop us from getting out and enjoying the beautiful weather.

We headed up to Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve near Lake Berryessa to finally tackle a hike we had heard so much about: the Homestead/Blue Ridge Loop Trail.

In a word? Awesome.


The trails make a loop and a fellow hiker mentioned that it might be better to head up the stairs rather than down, so we headed for the Homestead Trail portion first. My knees give me a bit of trouble, so heading down all of these stairs could have been painful. They were also pretty mossy and slick in areas thanks to the lovely tree cover. We were glad we took her advice!


Once we finished the climb, we could see the valley to our right:


and Lake Berryessa to our left:


I asked the hubs to take a know...for proof. To the right of yours truly, you can see the rest of the trail that tops the ridge:


This is what that trail looks like up close:


As we headed back down into the canyon, we were treated to beautiful displays of what was left of the fall colors:


I assure you, those leaves are now gone. We're expecting the wind and rain to continue through Sunday, so I guess we can say goodbye to all of those autumn hues.

Once we finished the hike, we took the scenic drive up to the north end of Lake Berryessa. The lake was quiet and calm as a few kayakers headed in for the day.



Obviously, I'm a big fan of looking back at shots of brighter days, but I want to know: what helps you get through the rainy, blustery season? I don't necessarily mind the rain, but it makes spending time outdoors a little less desirable. I suppose we all have to keep on moving forward, no matter the weather. Sometimes it's just nice to hear what keeps everyone else lookin' up even when skies are gray.

I hope all of my Northern California friends are staying warm and dry!


Happy {rainy} Wednesday, all!



Thank You

Yeah, I'm talkin' to you.With Thanksgiving just days away, I find myself grateful for so many things. I won't list them all here, because that would just take too long.

However, I would like to tell you how happy I am to have you all as readers. It means so much to be able to share and have people respond in such a positive way.

What I'm trying to say is: you all ROCK.

So, I'd like to leave you with a little ditty to show my gratitude. It's one of my 90's faves:

It's the kind of song that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. That is, until you realize five hours have gone by and you're still singing it.

For that, my friends, you are welcome.


Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Eat a lot of food!

Be thankful!

Hug your people!