Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Home for the Holiday

This week is back in New York and back to the office for me, but I wanted to share a few of my favorite holiday photos after having the most amazing (albeit brief) Christmas at home. Spending the holiday with my mom, dad, and sister was particularly wonderful this year, given how rare it is nowadays to find us all in one place.

Our living room is my favorite room during the holidays, as it's always decorated to perfection by my mom. 

I live for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner. We're a family that likes to cook so mom and dad always make holiday meals amazing.  

Cheers on Christmas morning! 

We spent Christmas day eating h'orderves and watching old home videos. 

I believe Christmas trees full of memories are the best kind. 

You may be thinking "since it was just the four of you, was writing the menu on our chalkboard necessary?" The answer is no. But, was it adorable? Yes.

Hands down the best canolis in New York are from La Guli. These guys miraculously survived the treacherous eight hour megabus trip from New York to Pittsburgh to be enjoyed for Christmas dessert.

Ultimately, I had the most wonderful Christmas filled with some much needed family time and relaxation. And honestly, what could be better than that, plus some hot chocolate and a miniature gingerbread house? 

I hope your holiday was as wonderful as mine.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

How to Win Every Wrap Battle

You can't judge a gift by its wrapping, but that doesn't mean presentation isn't important. Even if, like me, you're a Christmas Eve wrapper, there's still time to make your perfect gift look perfect on the outside too. Today I'm sharing my super easy formula to take your wrapping from generic to genuinely incredible, even last-minute! 

[Beautiful Paper]

Put some thought into the paper you use to wrap. If you're out and about today, you could splurge on some of my favorite wrapping from Paper Source (see here and here)! But, if it's a total not-leaving-the-house kind of Christmas Eve, consider using plain brown packing paper or newspaper. Both give off a classic, beautiful, and somewhat vintage vibe. 

[Twine, Ribbon.... or any string, really]

Hand tying a bow with twine or ribbon is the perfect way to update the typical store-bought bow. I'm weird and tend to collect string scraps all year, but I recognize that that's not the norm, so just use whatever you have lying around! This year I opted for the whole "brown paper packages tied up with string" look for my gifts (see above). I mean, it is Maria's favorite, and that's good enough for me. 

Side Note: That adorable card is from my wonderful friend, Lucy. xx

[Pine Branches, Cookie Cutters & Cinnamon Sticks]

These are what I like to call "toppers," and they always take wrapping from great to incredible. Better yet, they can easily be things that you already have lying around the house this time of year. Cut a few branches from your tree, grab some cinnamon sticks or candy canes from your kitchen, pull out that christmas cookie cutter you rarely use... the possibilities are endless! Secure it to the top of your present with the aforementioned string or ribbon, and you, my friend, have got a show stopping gift.

It's really that simple. Paper, string, and a topper are the only three elements you need for great wrapping and they offer endless combinations! If you follow the formula and get a little creative, I promise you'll win every wrap battle tomorrow. 

Happy wrapping and Merry Christmas Eve! 
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tis the Season for Holiday Adventures

"Is there anything more wonderful than Christmas in New York?" Even at age 6, Eloise knows what's up. It's almost Christmas and, even without snow on the ground, the magic in New York City is overflowing. With just two days left until Christmas, and the New Year just around the bend, I want to share with you three fun ways you can still soak up the season in the Big Apple that aren't "visiting the tree in Rockefeller Center," (although, you know.... I did that too).

[Go See "It's a Wonderful Life" at the IFC Center] 

You'll find lots of holiday movie screenings crop up in December, but I would argue that none will leave you feeling the joy of the season quite like this Christmas classic. Watching George Bailey dance into a pool, promise Mary the moon, and get a little help from angels should be on everyone's Christmas to do list, but seeing it in theaters makes it all the more magical. I went with my friend, Phil and it was just the best. 

Catch it today, tomorrow, or even Christmas Day!

[Eat at Eataly's Italian Alps Pop-Up Restaurant: Baita] 

Eataly seriously knows how to do Winter right. All season, you can visit the most beautiful mountain ski lodge without ever leaving Manhattan. Inside Baita, you'll find beautiful fairy lights, cozy blankets on every chair, gorgeous christmas trees, and of course, a delicious menu that includes some holiday favorites. Order a glass of mulled wine and you may just forget you're in the country, let alone New York City. 

Eat there now through March! 

I went with my adorable friend, Lea.

[Catch a Vintage Subway or Bus] 

  Every Sunday in December, the MTA is running vintage subway cars along the M track between Queens Plaza and 2nd Avenue. You'll know it's coming by the classic whistle and holiday wreath adorning the first car.  You can also find a vintage bus running a long M42 route. It's the perfect mix of New York nostalgia and holiday cheer. 

Catch a ride this Sunday the 28th! 

Side Note: I have no pictures because, not joking, my friend, Phil, and I had the toughest time getting on a vintage train last Sunday. I misread time tables and we saw the train pass by twice going the opposite way. We gave up, but it's fine-- we laughed a lot.


There really is no place like New York City during the holidays, and I certainly took advantage of it leading up to my trip back to good old Pennsylvania. Now that I'm home, however, I'm so happy to just to have some wonderful family time and live vicariously through Eloise.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cookie Swaps and Holiday Cheer

Not joking-- I've wanted to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap since before I even launched Whale & Wishbone. It seriously combines all of my favorite things; spreading joy through BAKING, EATING delicious cookies made by talented bloggers, supporting CHARITY, getting MAIL, schnitzel with NOODLES!!! Fine, I made up that last one, but you get the point. It's exciting stuff. 

So naturally, I signed up the minute the form became available, and not long after I received the names of three new blogger buddies to whom I would be mailing cookies: 
Dani from Haute in Paradise, Cassandra from The Chef in Pearls and Jennifer from Jennifer Bakes

For these lovely ladies, I decided to bake a variation of my first original cookie recipe: Salted Caramel Espresso Cookies. The inspiration for this new recipe came from the classic holiday drinks currently in every corner coffee shop. I also didn't think I could go wrong with mint, espresso and dark chocolate as base flavors. 

So without further adieu, I present... The Peppermint Mocha Cookie.

I enlisted my friend Caroline to be my personal photographer for this endeavor. She's a seasoned pro at this point, and willing to work for cookies, which is a rare combination.

Also, Side Note: Short hair don't care. I took these photos the day after a haircut in case you were wondering.

I'm for sure saying something to Caroline here. 
I believe I was laughing while telling her she had to keep the camera still for a gif - clearly that worked well. 

All the cookie dough. I don't believe salmonella is a thing. Just kidding -- You should probably be cautious or whatever.

Yassss cookies. 

The concentration is real because getting the correct cookie to dark chocolate ratio is of the utmost importance. 

Yes, I did break out the Christmas lights for a cookie photo shoot... let's not pretend that's uncharacteristic of me.

I included a note on the most adorable Rifle Paper Co holiday post cards to send along with each cookie shipment.

I found the perfect cookie tins to match my post cards at the Container Store! 

I also included a candy cane in each package because tis the season. 

It was so exciting for me when each blogger received their cookie package! 
You can check out their instagrams here, here and here

Finally ready for the recipe?

This particular recipe makes 48 instead of my standard 24 cookies. It's go big or go home for a cookie swap, amiright? You're welcome. 

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

(makes 48)


1 cup butter softened (2 sticks) 
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
7 tbsp ground espresso
4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
6 crushed candy canes


Preheat the Oven to 350 F

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs, vanilla and peppermint extract, and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, salt, espresso, and flour. Add to butter mixture and combine to form dough.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto un-greased baking sheets. Using the back of a spoon, slightly flatten each cookie.

Bake for 7-9 minutes until edges are slightly browned. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes, before transferring to cooling rack.

In a small bowl, melt dark chocolate and lightly drizzle over cookies. Before the chocolate dries, sprinkle crushed candy canes over cookies.

Note: it's important not to use too much chocolate, or the flavor might overpower the mint and espresso. It's ok to not use the entire 1/2 cup.

Refrigerate until chocolate hardens and enjoy!


Oh and if you're wondering, I also got to enjoy delicious cookies!

I received a lovely package of cranberry- pomegranate - filled shortbread spiral cookies from the wonderful Caroline of Caroline's Cooking.

And thanks to a classic case of me messing up my shipping address, UPS assures me I'll receive a surprise package of deliciousness very soon from the incredible Stephanie of Long Distance Baking.

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P.S Check out the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap website this weekend for links to all cookie recipes from the swap!