Posts tagged ‘holiday season’

2015, December 11

My favorite Winter drinks, with recipes

I was in bed with a cold for a few days this week, and while trying to stay as hydrated as possible, I started thinking of my favorite drinks for this time of year. And about how I haven’t done a Recipe of the Month post in a while. So, this will be a two in one blog post.

The following are my favorite Winter drinks, with one recipe included for each category.

Anything Winter-labeled tea
You know I love tea as a general rule, but during Fall and Winter I most enjoy drinking flavors I consider more “festive”. Some of my favorites are:
Pear & Caramel (Sir Edward Tea),
Apple & Cinnamon, Spiced Chai (Lipton),
Lemon & Ginger, Cranberry & Blood Orange or Blueberry & Apple (Twinings),
Magic Moments, Wintertime or Granny’s Finest (Teekanne),
Seasons Winter or Winter Holiday (Fares, a Romanian brand),
Ginger Peach Tea, Spiced Red Fruits or Black Tea Chai (English Tea Shop),
Magic Time (Mistral).

Sweet Ginger Tea

Sweet Ginger Tea

Sweet Ginger Tea

Cut about a one inch piece of fresh ginger root into small pieces, or thin slices.
Boil 250 ml water and pour into your cup over the ginger pieces.
Sweeten with 1-2 teaspoons of honey.
Add a slice of lemon, if you’re feeling adventurous.

The result is a really nice spicy tea, perfect for when you’re feeling chilly or a cold is creeping up on you.

If you’d like your tea less spicy, remove the ginger pieces after 2-3 minutes.
Optionally you can eat the ginger pieces and lemon slice after finishing your tea, or save them to use when cooking something (such as stir fry dishes).

Fresh juices
Orange, Orange & Grapefruit, Orange & Mandarin, Apple & Orange & Beet and Apple & Carrot & Beet combos. When my boyfriend doesn’t make me one in the morning, I like grabbing these on my way to work or during my lunch break, and sometimes even adding a splash of Ginger, Mint or Basil in there, too!

Spiced Orange & Grapefruit Juice

Spiced Orange & Grapefruit Fresh

Spiced Orange & Grapefruit Fresh

Squeeze the juice of 3 oranges and 1/2 of a Grapefruit into a glass.
You can also use a citrus reamer to do this. Strain of pulp if you’d like.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon or Pumpkin Spice mix (or both).
Sweeten (if needed) with 1-2 teaspoons of honey.

The obtained juice contains lots of magnesium, vitamin C, other minerals and vitamins making it a powerful antioxidant source besides being colorful and tasty.

Lattes and Hot Chocolate
A nice Caramel latte is the first thing I drink in the morning, but during this time of year, I enjoy switching it up and adding a Pumpkin Spice Latte, Gingerbread Latte or Marshmallow Latte into the mix.
As for hot chocolate, my favorite ready mixes are:
Hot Chocolatta Caramello (LaFesta),
Vanilla Flavored Chocolate Powder (Chocolaterie Monbana),
Seriously Velvety Instant Hot Chocolate (Clipper).
I’m also still in love with the S’mores Hot Chocolate, and recently tried my friend Janel‘s recipe for Cinnamon Hot Cocoa.
In case you haven’t read Janel’s books, feel free to catch up on her Culinary Competition Mystery Series before the next book releases on December 17th! They include yummy recipes, too!

page hot cocoa

Cinnamon Hot Cocoa
by Janel Gradowski

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 – 2 tablespoons brown sugar (depending on how sweet you would like it)
Dash of ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup of milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add some turmeric and maca powder if you want to make this healthier.

Whisk together cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small pan with a few tablespoons of the milk.
Stir until a smooth paste forms. Slowly whisk in the rest of the milk until well combined. Add the coconut oil.
Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until almost boiling. Stir in vanilla extract and serve.

I actually used one tablespoon of coconut milk instead of coconut oil, since I didn’t have any at hand, but the result was still delicious!

Coconut oil has many health benefits, including strengthening immunity. It adds a subtle coconut flavor to the hot cocoa, as well as a bit of richness. If you don’t have it feel free to leave out.

Let me know in the comment section below, what are your favorite Winter drinks? Give me the recipe so I can try them out!

Hope you enjoy the holidays with yummy drinks! ;)
2014, December 20

Simple holiday decor ideas that will survive a kitty attack

xmas kitten proof 3

When I first started thinking about holiday decorating at home and at my boyfriend’s, I was a bit concerned about the latter.

As you may have seen from my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts, we have a really cute, but at-times-beyond-hyper kitty, Pixel. Almost nothing is out of reach unless shut behind a cabinet door, and everything is easily turned into a toy. A toy which usually gets destroyed in five minutes or less if we don’t notice in time. And we usually don’t.

I started searching for ideas of Christmas decorating when one has pets around. The tips I found were good, but not fully applicable for our case. We live in an open plan apartment, which means that Pixel can get into and onto anything and everything.

There are no tips out there for leaving a kitty alone with all the holiday decorations up while the owners are at work and out of the house for 10 plus hours.

This whole thing got me thinking. We’d just have to be creative when it came to holiday decorating this year. And I’m sharing below just how we achieved it.

xmas kitten proof 1

Simple holiday decor ideas that will survive a kitty attack:

Keep it simple. And I do mean Simple with a capital “S”!
Go for an easy yet effective design which will still be festive, but won’t grab your cat’s attention too much.
We’re going for the “Hmm, a new thing’s placed there, let’s see what it is. It doesn’t sparkle. I can’t make it move around much. Doesn’t smell interesting. Okay, I’ll go sleep now.” reaction from your cat.

Go with a small fake tree, and place it out of the cat’s reach.
Also, if you have a real pine center piece, only leave it on tables or nightstands when you’re at home, and place them out of reach before leaving the house.
You wouldn’t want your cat nibbling on real pine while you’re at work all day long (it’s toxic if ingested in larger amounts).

For the Christmas tree avoid using tinsel, glittery and breakable ornaments.
I found that using simple clothespin ornaments, plastic or metal balls, or securing the ornaments to the branches with a ribbon works perfectly. You can also use homemade decorations like salt dough ones, dried fruit and cinnamon sticks, nuts and pine cones – these usually won’t get a second glance (especially dried fruit, kitties dislike citrus-y aromas) and even if they do, they’re not expensive to replace.
Add bells, if your cat is afraid of the sound they make; or use them as a precaution so they’ll alert you if the tree is being tampered with.

Place decoration out of reach.
Decorate mantels, shelves, window sills and other areas your cat doesn’t get to. You can safely display holiday photos and Christmas cards you receive, Christmas stockings, and breakable decorations this way.
Hang wintery and Christmas-themed paintings, wreaths and simple garlands on the walls and doors.
Plants on window sills will get a festive feel from some bows over the pots, Christmas themed planters and plant stakes.
Secure Christmas lights by lining the window frame with them for a both indoor and outdoor decoration. Use the “all lights ON” setting instead of letting them twinkle on their own.

Make some jar ornaments, which you can leave even at your cat’s reach.
You can create very cute decorations with jars, using even your favorite glass ornaments, since your cat won’t be able to touch them after you place the lid on. You can even add tea lights to light inside them and place the lid back on once burnt, or go with battery-powered tea lights. If you have snow spray, go ahead and add a few puffs of it into the jars.
Just make sure they’re not someplace they can get knocked off from too easily.

Decorate with throw pillows and blankets.
Fun, Christmas and winter themed pillows and blankets are all around us in stores especially during winter and right before Christmas, and other than give your home a holiday feel, they’re also quite comfy, warm and snuggly.
You can even make your own sweater pillow cases.
The worst your cat will do with these is get all comfy and have a good long sleep on top of them.
Choose some Christmas themed table cloths for the dining area, dishtowels, oven mitts, aprons and refrigerator magnets for the kitchen, towels and fun-shaped soap for the bathroom.

Have pine cones and fruit on tables and counters using Christmas themed bowls and plates for them. Same goes for the cookies! Don’t leave them out overnight or when you leave for work though, if your cat might knock them to the ground. (We’ve fished apples out from under the kitchen cabinet before.)
Christmas themed dishware in general will give a more festive feel to your meal time. If you feel like it, buy a new bowl for your cat, too, to use during the holidays.

Light scented candles, or use aromatherapy oils. There are tons of candles out there you can buy! Scents like cinnamon, pine, apple, oranges, cloves, peppermint and vanilla are all great! You can even make your own natural room scents.
Also, cats usually won’t go near lit candles.

Place Christmas themed books on shelves and on coffee tables.
You surely have a couple of Christmas novels or anthologies laying around, and also craft or cookbooks. The colorful covers will decorate all on their own when placed on shelves with the front cover showing or all the Christmas themed ones placed together, stacked up on coffee tables, and in baskets.

xmas kitten proof 2

Do you guys have pets? How do you decorate so that they don’t destroy everything? Or have they already grown out of that habit?

Hope you enjoyed my tips! ;-)

2013, December 15

One Common Plate, week 1 – Pear & Cinnamon Pancakes – #12DaysOfDIY

1 Common Plate

Is all it takes to bridge the gap

12 days of xmas blogging-1 In the words of their lovely Editor, Slurrpy is a place where people cook, tell stories, share culinary experiences, grievances and create a community that thrives on the love for good food.

The common man who work 10 hours a day and come home to wonder what to eat. The everyday cooks who feed hungry people, everyday, 3 times a day, 21 times a week keeping in mind each of our family member’s preferences. The people who do dishes, chop vegetables,  have zero sous chefs.

When people start using their “super powers” for good, it bridges differences, I think. Taking part in One Common Plate, I think we’re doing a world of good, with something as simple as experimenting in our kitchen across the globe.

Following the link below, is my first recipe to have been uploaded to Slurrpy’s website, during week one of four.

1CommonPlate: Pear & Cinnamon Pancakes by Estrella Azul


I am submitting my second recipe today, so hope you enjoy this one and drop back here next week, for the upcoming one(s).

2013, December 13

S’mores Hot Chocolate Recipe – #12DaysOfDIY

12 days of xmas blogging-1 This is the very first blog post of my new endeavor, Life’s a Stage getting all sparkly and entering its Holiday Edition.

For the upcoming twelve days, I decided to go with publishing one blog post every day in anticipation of Christmas. This period will be filled with DIY posts, recipes, crafts and the alike. If you feel like joining in, or giving the ideas featured here a try, please let me know in the comment section below, and share your photos with me on Twitter @EstrellaAzul, or on Instagram @Estrella05Azul.

This first blog post is a very decadent drink idea that I saw on MissGlamorazzi’s YouTube channel, and decided to try making.

My version is different than Ingrid’s, as I used non-organic products, regular milk and hazelnut chocolate spread instead of peanut butter.

This is a perfect treat for when you have friends over this holiday season, or better yet, curling up in a warm reading corner with one of your favorite books.

Hope you’ll love it as much as I do!


page - smores hot chocolate

S’Mores Hot Chocolate

-1 cup milk (Regular, almond, soy – any kind will work!)
-2 tbsp unsweetened Cocoa, or your favorite hot cocoa mix
-1 tbsp sugar or your choice of sweetener (If using pre-made hot cocoa mix, skip this!)
-3 or 4 graham crackers
-chocolate spread, or peanut butter
-Optional: chocolate chips or chocolate syrup

Prepare the hot chocolate as you would, either from the hot cocoa mix you like, or with the milk and unsweetened cocoa.

Crush the graham crackers. Line the edge of your mug with chocolate spread or peanut butter so you end up with a rim of sticky spread.

Dip into the graham cracker crumbs and maybe push the crumbs all around your mug so you get all the spread covered.

Toast the marshmallows over your stove, since it’s not exactly camping season :)

Pour the hot chocolate into your mug carefully, add the marshmallows, then decorate with some of the remaining graham cracker crumbs, and some chocolate chips, caramel or chocolate syrup.

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