Peppermint Martini Time

peppermint martiniMy husband has the honor of having his birthday on Christmas Eve. He not a fat, as I’m sure other Christmas-time babies aren’t.

Last year we made this cocktail as a specialty drink to honor the occasion and to have something festive other than the usual wine and beer.

Making a martini is super easy — it’s just a matter of pouring a few ounces of each ingredient and giving it a big stir.

peppermint martiniFor this concoction we used vanilla vodka, peppermint schnapps and creme de cacao. And, some peppermint candies.

peppermint martiniGo ahead and get your aggression out: unwrap the candies, then smash those candies into smithereens. This is good to do after you’ve been wrapping presents all day long.

peppermint martiniNext time I’ll do mine a little finer. These are to rim your glasses. Just dip the rim of your glass into water, then dip into the crushed peppermints. You can also run a wedge of lemon on the rim before the big dip.

This seems pretty obvious, but do this step before you pour the martini! Drop a whole candy into the bottom of the glass for an extra touch — and extra pepperminty-ness!

Then just mix the alcohol with some ice and strain into your glass.

Merry Christmas!

Peppermint Martini
  • 1-1/2 ounces vanilla-flavored vodka
  • 1-1/2 ounces creme de cacoa
  • ¾ ounce peppermint schnapps
  • ice
  • handful of peppermint candies, and one solid candy per drink
  1. Crush peppermint candies into a fine sand texture and put on place
  2. Dip lip of martini glass in water or line with a lemon, then dip rim of glass into the crushed candies.
  3. Put one solid candy in bottom of glass
  4. Set glasses aside
  5. Put liquid ingredients in martini mixer with several ice cues and shake
  6. Strain into martini glass


About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.

Our Favorite Children’s Christmas Books

Each season we bring out a new set of holiday books for our book nook. Even though they’ve been read over, and over, and over, it’s like seeing an old friend each year.

Here are some of our favorites:

Memories of the Manger

This is our absolute favorite Christmas book. It tells the story of the birth of Jesus in the manger through the eyes of a dove. He narrates the book as he talks to all of the stable animals on Christmas Eve. They talk about seeing a star. And how they can’t believe their eyes.

Olivia Helps with  Christmas

This book is all about Olivia and her two brothers who are anxiously awaiting for Santa Claus. We see Olivia as we always do — getting into trouble. She and her brothers are constantly looking out the window, on “Santa watch.”

They burn cookies, cut down the family tree, and just get into all kinds of trouble. We also have a matching green and white stripped, pajama-wearing Olivia stuffed animal so that helps bring this took to life. I wrote a post about this book last year and we’re enjoying it again this year. 

Charlie and the Christmas Kitty

We’re big fans of The Pioneer Woman and my kid’s love her children’s books about Charlie the Ranch Dog. The Christmas version doesn’t disappoint. Charlie is at his finest, being pestered by an itty-bitty kitty.

Santa is Coming to Town — to YOUR town

We found this book last year and love it. It’s customized to the location you live. You can find your state, but there are so many cities too. Not only does the title say your city name, but inside the book it talks about well-known parts of town where Santa is traveling through. See more about this book in my pervious post.

We save one Christmas book to be read only once a year:

The Night Before Christmas

We have an old version of this classic tale, and a beautiful pop-up version that has amazing white cut outs on every page. The story is the famous Clement Clarke Moore story, but with illustrated cutouts from Robert Sabuta. It’s far from  your typical pop-up book too. These illustrations are beautiful and creative. They literally jet out from the pages, making the story come to life.


What’s your favorite Christmas book?

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.

Dried Cherry and Pistachio Biscotti with White Chocolate

cherry and pistachio biscotti, dipped in white chocolate. Delicous!

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014The annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (I love how they call is GREAT!) happened behind the scenes for the last few weeks and today is the big reveal. All of the bloggers are posting our cookie recipes! For several weeks tons of food bloggers baked cookies, then shipped them to other bloggers. It’s an online version of a holiday cookie exchange — except you get to anticipate packages in the mail!

And, it’s for a good cause. To participate, proceeds from the cookie swap go to Cookies for Kid’s Cancer.  It’s a non-profit “committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease.”

Part of the request of the bloggers is to make a cookie that is “new to you.” I haven’t made biscotti before so that’s what I tried. I love the way it turned out too!

cherry and pistachio biscottiThis is an easy recipe that makes three dozen biscotti. So, I had just enough to share with my blogger matches.

cherry and pistachio biscottiMy family wasn’t too happy that it *only* made four dozen (actually, four dozen and 3) — they only got one each. And, my husband, only got the ends!cherry and pistachio biscottiLook at all of the pistachio and cherry pieces inside.   cherry and pistachio biscottiEach one is dipped in white chocolate. I debated this, I really did. They were perfect without the addition of the chocolate, but the addition of the chocolate threw them over the edge. cherry and pistachio biscottiWhether you are a biscotti dipper or not, these are great with a side of coffee or tea.

Dried Cherry and Pistachio Biscotti with White Chocolate
This recipe is adapted from Good Housekeeping. The original recipe says it yields 96 biscotti. I got about half of that. It depends on how wide you make the dough before you cook them. This recipe requires the biscotti to be cooked twice. Once as a long, once as individual cookies.
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups dried cherries
  • 2 cups shelled pistachios (approximately one 16 oz. bag)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup candy melts
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In small bowl, beat eggs. Spoon 1-2 tbs. of eggs into small bowl or cup (reserve for later)
  3. In medium bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until combined.
  4. Cut in butter using pastry tool or two knives
  5. Add cherries, pistachios, vanilla, and eggs (do not include the 2 tablespoons you reserved) and mix until combined
  6. Turn mixture onto counter, and press dough together to form a ball
  7. Slice ball into four equal sections
  8. Using your hands, form each section into a log, about 9 x 2 inches. Use flour on your hands as you work the dough (You can change the size, but expect a different amount of cut biscotti)
  9. Place two logs on one sheet pan. (Repeat process for final two logs)
  10. Brush the top of each log with the reserved egg
  11. Bake logs for 25 minutes. Let cool
  12. Using serrated knife, cut logs into ½ inch slices. Place cut biscotti pieces on their sides on baking sheets.
  13. Bake slices 15 minutes (for even baking, rotate cookie sheets half way through cooking)
  14. Cool biscotti on wire racks (they will harden as they cool)
For chocolate
  1. Melt candy melts (microwave in 30 minute intervals, stirring in between each interval)
  2. Using knife coat the sides of biscotti and let sit on write rack until hardened

And, a great part about being involved in this cookie swap is receiving cookies in the mail. My kids loved it when one of the packages arrived. I have to admit, it wasn’t easy for them to see me boxing up these biscotti when I didn’t have enough for us to have any.

I received amazing cookies from three bloggers. Be sure to click through to their sites to get pictures and recipes.

Here’s my cookie and recipe from last year:

These beauties are still popular and they have become one of my most pinned images on Pinterest. (Follow me on Pinterest!)

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.
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Snowflake Cupcakes: Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Snowflake cupcakes -- chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frostingI’m fighting winter this year. Fighting hard. My dukes are up.

We had snow on Halloween. Snow on Thanksgiving. It’s snowing as I type this.

I decided the best way to embrace snow is to bake. Yes, bake. Just yesterday I read an article about how there is science behind baking relieving depression. OK, that’s an oversimplification of the article, but it’s kind of true. When I bake, I’m transported to another time. A peaceful place. It’s my stress relief. Or, in this case, it’s my snow relief.

snowflakecupcake_ro2So, this is how I embraced the snow: a snowflake cupcake! Isn’t it cute?

chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream and snowflake sprinkles on top via BalancingMotherhod.comIt’s a chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting and snowflake sprinkles. I also added some tiny pearl sprinkles. Couldn’t resist.

snowflakecupcake_single1These cupcakes are prefect for winter. And, they remind me of the movie Frozen.

“Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry!”

We’re doing a Frozen-theme for my daughter’s birthday in March so I’ve got it on the brain already. I’ve got a ton of great PINs on my Frozen Pinterest board, working up inspiration for her cake next year. But, that’s not until March!

snowflakecupcake_yumFor now, I’ll embrace this snow and eat this lovely chocolate cupcake.

Here’s the link to the snowflake candies (affiliate link) that I used on top. This link includes cupcake liners that I didn’t use, but that would be cute just the same.

Snowflake Cupcakes: Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
This is a really flavorful and moist chocolate cupcake. Cake recipe adapted from IAMBAKER.NET Icing recipe is adapted from Wilton.
For the cupcake:
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup water
For the icing
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 4 tablespoons water or milk
For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Set cupcake liners in cupcake pan
  3. In medium bowl, mix sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  4. In separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, water, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, a little at a time, until combined
  6. Pour batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling ⅔ of the way high
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes (checking at 25 minutes) or until toothpick placed in center comes out clean.
  8. Cool on rack before frosting
For icing:
  1. Mix vegetable shortening and vanilla
  2. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Mixing in between each cup
  3. Add up to 4 tablespoons water or milk, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency reached
  4. Use more water (or milk) for thinner consistency
  5. Frost cakes by using piping bag
  6. Top with snowflake and mini-pearl sprinkles


Disclosure: An affiliate link is used in this post. If you make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Opinions are our own.


About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.
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Christmas All Through the South Makes Great Gift

My mother sent me package in the mail and said I couldn’t open it until she arrived for her visit in a few weeks. UGH. Of course I agreed to her stipulation, but like a little kid, as soon as the package came I wanted to tear it open and see what was inside. It was a big, heavy box and I could tell it was a book. I couldn’t determine what kind of book it was.

It was too big to be a novel. Too big to be a cookbook. It had me stumped.

I had to put the box away so I wouldn’t be tempted to open it. You can imagine, I was glad when my mother finally arrived in town so I could open this box. Inside was the sublime Christmas: All Through the South book from Southern Living.

It’s a hefty book, full of larger-than-life photos from different areas of the South. This book takes you through all the traditions of Christmas: from getting the tree, to decorating your home (inside and out — front porches included!), parties, parades, and all the sights and sounds of the holidays.

Christmas All Thorugh The South by Southern LivingLook at all of these wreaths. They would all look beautiful on my front door!Christmas All Thorugh The South by Southern LivingAnd, this boat parade along Alabama’s Gulf Coast reminds me of my childhood in Florida where a lit boat wasn’t so odd this time of year.

And, I was pleased to see a section on my neighbor,  The Biltmore Estate. It reminds me of my magnificent visit to the Estate this summer where I was pampered and was introduced to amazing feasts.

Christmas All Thorugh The South by Southern LivingMy favorite section, however, has to be the red velvet cheesecake. You know I love my cakes. My absolute favorite cake is The Cheesecake Factory’s red velvet cheesecake. It’s so beautiful and delicious. One day I’ll attempt to recreate this treasure. Christmas All Through the South has a version of this iconic cake. It’s not a copy-cat of The Cheesecake Factory, but a sublime 5-layer cake that looks simply amazing. And, guess what? Lucky me — the recipe is included in the book. The last 58 pages are stocked full of recipes from all the photos in the previous sections. So, it turns out I was right all along — this big, hefty book is a cookbook after all!

My mom calls this book “THE GIFT to give this season.” I think she’s right.

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a purchase we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Opinions are my own.

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.