‘Tis the Season: Not-So-Secret Santa Mini Challenge

I was so excited when I saw Alexa Loves Books’s Christmas mini challenge! It’s called the Not-So-Secret Santa Mini Challenge and if you win, you get $25 worth of books from either Amazon or Book Depository!  The challenge is to pick a book character (or several book characters) and tell what you would give them for Christmas!

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Alexa already came up with some great ideas in her post so I’m going to try my best to pick different characters but there is one repeat I couldn’t resist (cough Lara Jean cough).  Here are the top 5 characters I would love to buy Christmas presents for!  Which book characters would you love to shop for if you could?

Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han)

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Lara Jean loves baking just as much as I do so shopping for her would be so much fun.  I think she would adore this pastel pink KitchenAid mixer because it would make her life easier and it completely matches her aesthetic.  Plus, a KitchenAid mixer is the ultimate baker’s dream tool.  I think Peter K. would appreciate this gift too because it would mean more sweets for him!

Cath (Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell)

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Cath is a writer through and through and if there’s one thing a writer always needs (besides a pen), it’s a place to write down their ideas.  I think Cath would really like these flowery Rifle Paper Co. notebooks.  She could keep them with her when she’s traveling back home to visit her dad or when she’s sitting in class so if a Simon and Baz idea comes to her she can jot it down without having to fear it being lost.

Anna (Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins)

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Anna is obsessed with film and writing movie reviews.  It would be easy to get her a notebook as well, or something banana to add to her collection, but I think she would really enjoy this film projector necklace by Betsey Johnson.  It seems like something she wouldn’t think to buy for herself but it would allow her to incorporate her favorite hobby into her everyday wardrobe.

Echo (The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey)

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Echo is a girl after my own heart because she shares an affinity for good food.  We already know she loves macarons and I think it would brighten her holiday to get a giant custom box full of her favorite flavors.  Echo is really busy trying to figure out how to stop the war between the Avicen and the Drakhar so she doesn’t have the most time to be stopping to think about food and she can eat these macarons on the go.

Hermione (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)

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Hermione is everyone’s favorite bookworm and what’s better to gift a bookworm than a set of collectible books?  I think Hermione would appreciate this gorgeous collectible set of the Penguin Drop Caps editions and they would look lovely arranged in a central area on her bookshelf to brighten up the area where her neutral colored magic books are displayed.

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Kristin

Instagram Obsessed: Honey & Butter

About a year ago when I was visiting Kristin in Orlando and we were waiting on line at Disney to see Belle, we started checking our instagram accounts.  It was then that I realized that unlike most people, I do not follow one single famous person.  But I do follow a heck of a lot of bakeries.  One of my favorite accounts to follow is Honey & Butter.  It’s a macaron bakery and they’re always creating adorable geeky macarons such as Star Wars, Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Baymax, Tsum Tsum’s and more.  You can follow them on instagram here.  Here are some of my favorite creations of theirs!

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NYC Location Love: Sugar and Plumm

One of my favorite places to brunch in NYC is Sugar and Plumm on the Upper West Side.  Their food selection will appease anyone with a sweet tooth such as myself.  I’m talking dessert foods disguised as breakfast.  When you walk in, you’re met with a beautiful bright white decor with royal purple accents and wall mosaics that remind me of Candyland.  There’s an enormous royal purple upholstered chair which looks like a throne next to the entrance which you can take photos in.

I’ve sampled the majority of their menu (anything without meat in it) throughout my many trips there with Andrew and my two favorites are the blueberry ricotta pancakes with lemon curd and the dulce de leche ice cream waffles.  I also really love their milkshakes (grasshoppers are the best!) and their alcoholic iced tea.  Unlike many other restaurants, there is no unlimited drinks brunch deal so it can get rather expensive if you’re looking to have more than one drink with your meal.  Sugar & Plumm is all about the food.  You also have the opportunity to satiate your sweet tooth without sitting down for meal.  They have an ice cream bar, cupcakes, cake, a wide variety of macarons, a huge candy selection and my personal favorite, chocolate Eiffel Towers and and high heels.  If you’re ever planning a trip to NYC, I cannot recommend Sugar and Plumm enough.  Plus, it’s a quick walk from there to Central Park so you can try to work off some of the calories you consumed during breakfast!

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10 Sweet Treats To Bake For Your Valentine (Or Galentine!)

I have been on a Pinterest rampage as of late (I recently discussed how I broke up with Tumblr for Pinterest) and I keep finding all of these delicious looking recipes!  Now that I’ve begun my Kristin’s Kitchen posts and I have my handy dandy pink KitchenAid mixer, I’ve been making an effort to set some time aside each week for baking sweet treats for my love.  With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be helpful to round up some of the best looking red and pink desserts I’ve found before narrowing down my selection to those which will make the ultimate cut!

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Valentine’s Day Oreo Cookie Pops

Recipe: Lil Luna

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Linzer Tarts

Recipe: Cooking on the Front Burners

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Red Velvet Macarons

Recipe: Life Made Sweeter

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Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

Recipe: Lil Luna

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Heart Shaped Cherry Pie Pops

Recipe: The Sweetest Occasion

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Chocolate Pomegranate Tart

Recipe: Pastry Affair

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Valentine Pretzel Bites

Recipe: Sand and Sisal

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Sweetheart Brownies

Recipe: Lil Luna

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Strawberries & Cream Heart Cake

Recipe: Gimme Some Oven

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Red Velvet Milkshakes
Recipe: Pizzazzerie

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Bryant Park Holiday Shops

Last weekend, Andrew and I headed over to Bryant Park for our first of many trips to see the Holiday Shops.  Each year, Bryant Parks sets up a number of pop-up type boutiques in the area surrounding the ice skating rink.  All the shops are full of great ideas for holiday gifts and there are so many eateries to sample along the way!  My favorite shop each year is By Whoops which sells macarons in a wide variety of flavors.  I tried to be patient on our walk to their kiosk but it was rough!  The first flavors I sampled this season were 1) Cookies & Cream – so much yes, 2) Pumpkin – delicious, 3) Nutella – OMG there are no words, 4) Caramel Apple – not my favorite, 5) Raspberry – always one of my favorites, and 6) Coffee – pretty good!  I’m looking forward to going back and trying more.  While we were walking around I also purchased a snowflake necklace (I’ve always wanted one!), ate a delicious cheddar truffle pretzel from Bavarian Food Company and sampled the always amazing chocolate at Max Brenner.  Another shop I really liked had beautiful necklaces made out of painted leaves from Central Park.  I (obviously) had to stop anywhere that had Christmas decorations.  One of the last shops I stopped in had the most creative chandelier made out of teacups.  Overall, it was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go back once the Christmas tree is displayed and lit up at night!

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End of Season Pumpkin Spice Product Reviews

My pumpkin spice addiction was in full force this season and as a result I ended up sampling some really tasty treats as well as some that were kind of meh.  I decided to round them up in one giant end of season review instead of harassing the non-pumpkin lover by posting one review per week.  I found most of my pumpkin snacks at either Trader Joe’s or Stop and Shop and I also included a photo of a sparkly pumpkin I found at Michael’s just because.

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Sparkly Pumpkin ^.^Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetPumpkin Spice M&M’s – It’s been a full year since I first tasted and wrote this love letter to Pumpkin Spice M&M’s, and I’m very happy to report that they hold up.  I think pumpkin spice is one of the best flavors to be mixed with the classic M&M (right after peanut butter of course).  Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses – I am a HUGE fan of these.  They’re not what you would expect at all from a Hershey Kiss and it totally works!  When you unwrap your kiss, your met with a bright orange chocolate and once you take a bite, you’ll see the white cream filling in the center.  The kiss is VERY pumpkin spice and does not really taste like chocolate at all.  I think these can be very hit or miss depending on your tastes, but I really love them.  They’re more sweet than spicy and I’ve been savoring this bag ever since I purchased it.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Pumpkin Spice Toll House Chips – Similar to the Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses, Nestle’s Toll House chips are also a bright orange color.  I’m sorry to say that I had the busiest October ever with NYCC and all, and I still haven’t been able to bake any Pumpkin Spice cookies with these just yet, so I cannot yet comment on their taste. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies – These pumpkin cheesecake cookies did not make of my list of things I would buy again.  They were okay tasting, but they  were neither spicy nor sweet enough so it felt like the cookie was lacking overall.  Perhaps they would best appeal to someone who has a casual love for pumpkin?  Either way, they did not do much for me.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Tazo Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea – OMG this tea is the best tea.  Chai tea is already spicy by itself so adding pumpkin spice to it was an ingenious idea.  I’m still enjoying cups of this as I type.  Next year, I’m definitely planning on stocking up on this tea so that I can enjoy it year round.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Swirl Bread – This bread was absolutely delicious, especially when consumed with Trader Joes’ Cookie Butter.  The bread has orange bits of pumpkin in it, as well as a cinnamon-like spicy swirl and when topped with cookie butter, it tastes much more like dessert than breakfast.  I would definitely buy this again next year.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Croissants – I am a huge fan of croissants as it is, so adding pumpkin to them is a breakfast dream come true.  These croissants are topped with pumpkin seeds and the inside has a delicious pumpkin filling, which after baking in the oven, is so incredibly warm and satisfying.  These are not spicy at all but they still manage to pack enough flavor to secure their status as a fall favorite.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Kellog’s Eggo Pumpkin Spice Waffles – These waffles are another masterful combination of pumpkin spice and breakfast food.  They have a combination spicy and sweet taste that I would compare to eating something cinnamon and then pouring sugary maple syrup in all of the squares.  Good job Eggo, Leslie Knoppe would be proud.

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Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bagels – These bagels are another pumpkin infused food that were just okay.  Maybe I’m spoiled with New York Bagels, but these were nothing to write home about in so many ways.  Since I prefer bagels when they’re just out of the oven, I tried toasting one to see if it would change my opinion, but alas, it did not.  The bagels were not doughy enough and the pumpkin flavor felt very bland.

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Trader Joe’s Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls – The name alone is a mouthful!  These mini ice cream sandwiches were exploding with flavor, thanks in huge part to the ginger cookies that the pumpkin ice cream was sandwiched between.  They were tasty and they did have an effective spicy to sweet ratio, but these were also not my favorite.  There were bites where the ginger flavor was too overpowering to enjoy the pumpkin.

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Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Macarons – These were so delicious! I mean, they’re macarons so they’re kind of a challenge to mess up taste-wise (baking-wise is a whole other story).  The cookie is light and delicious and the pumpkin filling was sweet enough that each time I finished a cookie, I felt compelled to reach for more.

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Nabisco Pumpkin Spice Oreo’s – Oreo is constantly coming out with innovative flavors, some which work extremely well and other (like Caramel Apple, yuck), that completely miss the mark.  I am so pleased to report that Pumpkin Spice Oreo’s are perfection (despite smelling like a candle when you open the package).  The cookie part tasted akin to a graham cracker and the filling was a darker orange than you’d expect an artificially flavored food to be.  They boast a fantastic spicy to sweet ratio and I will definitely be hunting for these again next year.

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Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Cereal Bars – I think part of the reason that I wasn’t super into these is because I’m not a big cereal bar person overall.  I thought they did a good job of emulating the taste of a cereal bar, so if those are your thing, you will probably enjoy these.  They didn’t have enough taste to keep me interested in even finishing one entire bar.  Next year, I’ll pass.

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Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Cheesecake – This was definitely worth the low price tag of $6.99 for an entire cheesecake.  The crust was a delicious graham cracker and the pumpkin cheesecake was very sweet.  I couldn’t eat too much in one sitting because of how rich it is, but the taste definitely kept me coming back for more.

Not pictured is also the Trader Joe’s Salted Pumpkin Caramels which were an interesting creation.  They were VERY pumpkiny and also very salty.  I could only eat one at a time and after consuming almost the entire box, I still can’t decide whether I really liked them or really didn’t like them.  I think I kept eating them out of the hope that I would draw a conclusion but it has yet to happen. Maybe next year!  What were your favorite Pumpkin flavored treats from this season?

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Summer Wish List Inspired By The Sweetest Treats

Ever since the sun began making all of our days more pleasant this season I’ve been daydreaming about scorching hot days, oversized sunglasses, ice cream cones, denim shorts, and that incredible energy level that comes along with my favorite season.  My last wish list theme was very magical girl, and as I’ve started building my next wish list I’ve noticed that it’s inspired by some of my favorite dessert foods.  Macarons, cupcakes and pies, oh my!  I decided to start a new list after happening upon the beautiful cherry pie crossbody purse I found by Betsey Johnson last night.  It reminds me of one of my favorite television shows, Pushing Daisies, and I feel like I must have it.  What does the warm weather having you wish for this summer season?

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Macaron t-shirt by BDG $18 (Urban Outfitters)

1Bubble Tea Ring by Fatally Feminine $15 (Etsy)

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My Sweet Art Cupcake Print Dress $89.99 (ModCloth)

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Betsey Johnson Cherry Pie Crossbody Purse $68 (Macy’s)

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Watermelon iPhone Case $19.50 (Etsy)

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Pops! Icy Treats For Everyone By Krystina Castella $15.95 (QuirkBooks)

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Scented Heart Cookie Earrings by Fatally Feminine $32 (Etsy)

1Heart Cut Out Ice Cream Print Dress $89.00 (Etsy)

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Macarons by Mowie Kay $13 (Amazon)

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Lime Crime Nail Polish in Pastelchio $8 (Lime Crime)

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