Christmas Countdown Is On

I’m a little concerned it’s already December 18.  This time of year goes the fastest and some people probably like that but I like to savor it all.  But who’s to say I can’t keep celebrating past Christmas?  Maybe it’s not readily available but I can buy peppermint candies all year round and make my own mochas.

I watched a bunch of Christmas movies while wrapping my presents over the weekend.  I can honestly say it took me about 6 hours…not really complaining!

The past week involved tons of great food.  I tried a bunch of new recipes and with a few tiny tweaks, I’d say they were mostly all keepers.

I broke out my Gwyneth cookbook.  Cherry tomatoes and arugula were in my fridge and they needed to be used. It’s full of good, Whole food and love the variety of recipes.)img_6752.jpgI could have ate the entire bowl of them.  I’ve roasted tomatoes before but the ratio of EVOO was just perfect.  I only used the below recipe for them, not the rest that’s mentioned.

IMG_6750Seriously.  Look at them!  Perfectly blistered and browned.IMG_6748I had some smoked salmon so I really wanted to incorporate that as the protein.  For a dressing I used this one just with balsamic vinegar instead of red wine, only because that’s what I had in the house.  It made a lot so I’ve had extra dressing all week!img_6763.jpg

My favorite part might have been the sour cream corn bread.  I used Ina’s recipe from Make it Ahead and fell I love with it.  I substituted coconut palm sugar instead and gluten free flour!img_6772.jpg Forget what you think about dry, crumbly cornbread.  This is not that at all.  It’s moist and soft and did not need any topping to be delicious.  Ina recommends butter and strawberry jam!  She also said you could could toast it but mine fell apart a little.  However, warmed up was amazing.

It was a nice carb addition to the salad.  We all need it.  IMG_6780

A few days later I still had sour cream leftover and needed a reason to use it.  My brilliant idea was to use it in scones.  It’s been awhile.  I was on a huge scone kick awhile back and love the way sour cream or buttermilk change the texture.  This was my one recipe semi-failure… let’s say #Pinterestfail.

I laid out all my ingredients but somehow forgot to add the brown sugar.  Now, if you know scones, they’re not meant to be very sweet so these are still edible but I had planned on giving them as a thank you present.  Yeah, that wasn’t happening.  I have standards.  I did eat one for breakfast with coffee anyway!  I added chopped dates and pecans and will try these again one day.  After Christmas!

After that debacle, I was out of butter so I found an interesting cookie using olive oil.  Now, I really liked these.  I’m not sure what everyone else thinks since they are definitely different.  The fleur del sel and olive oil added a gourmet depth that most cookies don’t have. I think I’d leave about 1/4 cup of sugar out next time.  They were pretty darn sweet.  or maybe use bittersweet chocolate chips!  fimg_6875.jpgMy last little culinary experience involved a greattttt cappuccino and a gluten-free peanut butter chocolate free cake.  As much as I love coffee, I’m a little boring sometimes and stick with black.  This cappuccino was down right wonderful.  The cake was good too, but I totally could have just eaten the peanut butter mousse layer in the middle and I would have been sold! (The capp was much prettier before I took a sip!)IMG_6869

7 Days until Christmas!

~Whitney Victoria

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Friday Faves and Peppermint Protein Smoothies

There are a lot of things I’m excited for right now and spinning is one of them again. I found myself smiling while we were going up a hill and felt too silly about it to stop.  Super crazy ready to try Sprint!  It’s coming to my gym and I can’t wait to try it.  The fact that it’s only 30 minutes should seem nice but I know that means it’s intense.  You’re fitting an hour’s worth of speed, resistance, and cardio into half the time. Check it out people.

 

My Taylor Swift tickets…I worked hard all November getting ticket “boosts” for a closer place in the virtual box office line.  My spot opened and I took too much time texting with my sister on what type of seats, pricing, etc. we wanted.  I was about to select the seats when the entire Ticketmaster site said there were no tickets available for that event.  I kept thinking it was just a glitch and even if they somehow were sold-out, I’d get to go.  I checked back every few minutes and suddenly they were back!  I didn’t waste anymore time and bought them.  Whew.  Seriously, the best two concerts I’ve ever been to so I cannot wait for this one on July 14. img_6737.jpg

Macarons!  They’re the best, chic, decadent treat. My mom and I absolutely adore them.  They’re so instagramable…I haven’t tried these new flavors yet because I can’t think of not sharing them.  They are in the freezer!  I love this little company who does pop-up shops in the area!  They have a bunch of holiday flavors.  My selection this time was peppermint, gingerbread, eggnog, cinnamon bun, cookie dough, and strawberry cheesecake.

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Short hair!  I totally feel like I lost some dead weight, not just the hair but also the weight of whatever I don’t need from the last year or so.  I feel more chic and sassy (best word I can find to describe my feels but not my favorite…)

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Peppermint everything!  I found this candy cane smoothie on instagram and new I needed to make it ASAP.  My weird banana intolerance meant I had to adjust the recipe a tiny bit.  I put it in the freezer so it could be thicker and I’d have to eat it with a spoon. I was hungry so it didn’t freeze long but it was just long enough to form a frozen crust.  I had to crack the surface like I was eating creme brule. It’s fun to trick myself into thinking Im eating some delectable bowl full of protein.  It turned out wonderful and refreshing and basically better than ice cream.

My version:

Peppermint Cacao Protein Smoothie Bowl!

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup frozen cauliflower (you won’t taste it, I promise!)

1/4 tsp peppermint extract

1 tbs cacao or cocoa powder

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used this one)

Garnish with 1 crushed mini candy cane and 1 tsp mini chocolate chips (My faves!)

Lick the bowl.  img_6769.jpg

I’m in love with this bed.  Totally going on my vision board.  I love the high headboard and that it’s modernish but still sort of homey feeling.IMG_5076

Some Black Friday deals that are even better than expected.  That blanket I randomly got of $12 at Sears, of all places.  Hello, those owls are drinking coffee…and wearing scarves…and some have ear muffs.  Of course I love it. It is so soft and oversized that I’ve been covering up with it while watching tv and then taking it to bed with me!  The pillow was an impulse buy from TJ MAXX and I’m equally in love with both.  (Pictured with a Godiva Santa bear from 2000.  For real.  I’ve been a semi-hoarder since a child.)IMG_6559

 I can a bracelet that says “You are Magic” on it in Connecticut so this pic makes me happy.  I’m telling you to believe it too.IMG_6395~Whitney Victoria

 

 

Love Languages

(photo cred:)

Love, a language?  Oh, I am most definitely not fluent.

 I took the love language quiz again…I only remembered half-way.  I needed the full deets on my inner psyche.  It’s free!  You just have to create short profile.

It’s been pretty popular in years past and become a bit of a cliche but….In case you don’t know what a “love language” is, here goes: Your love language is the way someone needs to communicate with you in order for you to feel connected and ultimately loved.  I’m sure there’s someone in your life that just flummoxes you.  You know, like you just don’t know what really makes them happy.  You should take the quiz for yourself and then get them to take it. This is not just for romantic relationships; you can use the language results for children, parents, friends, co-workers, etc.

This is not to say you need to make someone else happy all the time by showering them with gifts (if they’re like me…).  I just think it’s a great tool to understand why someone did not respond the way you assumed they would to your actions and to maybe increase your connections.

Especially with the holidays happening like tomorrow, it’s something that might help you  have a smoother time conversing with relatives…hah!   Hey, you never know.  I found an interesting post about using it romantically if that’s what you’re looking for.

My results:

10 Receiving Gifts
8 Words of Affirmation
7 Quality Time
4 Physical Touch
1 Acts of Service

It’s insanely valid for me.  I know how much I appreciate getting a little note or present because it’s a physical sign that someone cared and was thinking about me.  It’s not about the actual material thing I receive. I’m 100% sure this is why I love giving presents to everyone around me!  I love it so much that I just want to share that good feeling it gives me.

Receiving Gifts

Receiving Gifts

Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are heartfelt symbols to you of someone else’s love and affection for you.
Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation

Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important— hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. You thrive on hearing kind and encouraging words that build you up.
Quality Time

Quality Time

In Quality Time, nothing says “I love you” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes you feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed activities, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Whether itʼs spending uninterrupted time talking with someone else or doing activities together, you deepen your connection with others through sharing time.
Physical Touch

Physical Touch

A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, and thoughtful touches on the arm—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Appropriate and timely touches communicate warmth, safety, and love to you.
Acts of Service

Acts of Service

Can helping with homework really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most wants to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. When others serve you out of love (and not obligation), you feel truly valued and loved.
I’d absolutely love to hear if you take the quiz and agree with the results!
~Whitney Victoria

 

Festivities – Food and Facials

Festiveness is everywhere!  In my food and self-care practices…

Festivity Part One: I had a facial today here.  It was heaven.   I chose the spa because they focus on natural ingredients.  I didn’t want harsh products on my poor face.  After my first facial I felt super red and slightly in pain and I’ve never had super bad skin so I can imagine what it’s like for other people.  This time was going to be different.  I had already decided that before booking an appointment.

Other than my skin looking a little lackluster lately, I didn’t have any major concerns to addresss.  I mainly wanted some advice on my type of skin and some sort of cleansing relaxation.  The “seasonal facial” was right up my alley.

This was the description: “A botanical experience perfect for all skin types featuring vitamin-rich holistic products that enhance your skin’s natural balance and vitality.  While your skin absorbs the healing properties of our masques, we’ll delight you with a decollete, full hand & arm exfoliation and body butter application followed by a warm tower hand wrap.”

The esthetician used hot buttered rum exfoliant, peppermint oil in my scalp massage, and some amazing cocoa face mask…yes.  It was like I was getting a facial in Christmas land.  So many hot towels draped over my eyes and my hands wrapped up.  It was so relaxing and my face was a tad red (as to be expected) but it also looked dewy and renewed.

She did tell me that I had small blocks all over and it wasn’t super noticeable to me because I have small pores.  She said that it was most likely caused by something topical.  I literally never wear foundation so I knew it must be my face cream.  Another fact I loved about the process was that I was given a “prescription sheet” of all the products she used on me in case I loved it and wanted to use something at home.  It was completely this brand, Eminence Organic Skincare, which I have never heard of before now.  It’s so tough for me to find something natural that also doesn’t cause any negative reactions or clogged pores.  The “calm” line was recommended since I’m pretty sensitive…of course I am.I’m not one to be talked into a ton of products but I want my skin to be something I’m proud of.  Instead of just choosing say the cleanser, or just the cream, I am trying this starter set so see how I like it.

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Seriously.  I loved every minute of it.  I’m currently working them into my schedule because this needs to happen every six weeks or so.

Festivity Part Two:

Oh man.  I had the best idea yesterday morning.  I had some time to actually use the stove for breakfast.  Normally I prep oatmeal the night before or  so I wanted good pancakes.  You know, with the little crispy edges that show up when you bake something in a pan?  I use coconut oil usually but there’s nothing wrong with real butter!  My stomach does not do well with egg yolks and I’m always on the lookout for something gluten free. My search led me to this easy recipe.  It’s actually a waffle recipe but they’re always the same and I was not dusting my waffle iron off for a batch of 2.

It was so simple yet I was almost out of my regular almond milk and didn’t think I could squeeze a 1/2 cup out of it.  I thought, “Hey!  Who says I can’t substitute that for my beloved Good Karma Holiday Nog?”

Let me tell you.  It’s one of the best “nogs” on the market right now.  I’ve tried most dairy-free kinds so that’s saying something.  It’s great straight up.  I can’t wait to down a glass with a little plateful of gluten-free almond cookies this season.  So…it had to be a great addition to my pancakes, right?

SOOO much better than I expected!  My pancakes tastes like sugar cookies!  I added just a hint of coconut oil at the end and drizzled some maple syrup but next time I wouldn’t even need that! The nog added its own sweetness.

Please try this recipe out!  I got my nog at Wegmans but this time of year it’s usually at Giant and Target too! You can use any kind of dairy-free nog (or any kind of milk, I think) but I think you’ll love the festive feel to this breakfast.

Holiday Nog Pancakes

(Makes 2 large pancakes)

1/2 cup gluten-free flour (I love Bob’s Red Mill gf blend.)

1/2 cup Good Karma Holiday Nog

2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

Mix all ingredients together. Cook on medium heat in pan with melted coconut oil.  Flip once, when you see bubbles on the surface. It will take awhile!  Practice patience.

fullsizeoutput_20c4I’ll be making these all winter long.  Or at least as long as I can find great dairy-free, healthy drinks.

My favorite way to drink “egg” nog of the season.  Christmas Vacation will forever hold a place in my happy holiday heart.

~Whitney Victoria

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Supermoons and Staycays

Crazy lunar happenings this week.  It’s a supermoon (full moon) in Gemini and the first feels of Mercury in retrograde.  don’t worry if you missed the moon last night!  It’s the closest it’s been to Earth for all of 2017 right now so you can still see it in all it’s glory tonight.

The Moon is most powerful when at Full Moon, when her light outshines the light of the Sun and our emotions are stronger than our Solar consciousness. Just look at the Full Moon. The Full Moon is honest, the Full Moon reveals herself entirely. When full, the Moon wants to expose everything, to show things as they really are The Full Moon on the 3rd of December is in Gemini, and will be all about illuminating the truth. (source)

“The full Moon on the Gemini / Sagittarius axis is a quest for the truth.

In a few weeks, it will be Capricorn season-aka Whitney season. I can tell already.  I’ve decided years ago just how intuitive I am and I can honestly say I feel the effects of things like this.  There’s a spark in the air around my birthday.  It’s easier to hear my thoughts and drop facades and let myself have more fun.  I never put two and two together until now actually….that’s probably why I love the holidays!  I just always attributed it to being festive and in the spirit but now it all makes sense that it’s probably closely linked to my time of year.

I finally decided on a new planner from Danielle LaPorte for next year and I’m excited to use that little baby.  It’s beautiful and massive and full of good words.  Check it out!  LOVE the look and feel.

I’m using it this week to remember all the things I want to be and how I stopped myself from fulfilling that potential the past few months.  In a good way.  Nothing too deep…that’s not true.  I want to go real deep and listen to my soul (feel free to insert eye roll).  We teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves, which brings me to my second point.

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I have vacation this entire week.  Long story short: I had a trip planned that my inner self was so not feeling so I cancelled. The minute I got my hotel refund, I felt crazy relief.  What I’ve been craving was time away but not away.  You get it? (Staycay?  Yes way!  Hah!) Now I’m doing some major R&R and detoxing in the form of workouts, clean eating, and home organization and cleansing ala Marie Kondo. Attachment gets us nowhere, my friends. I also have scheduled a facial.  It’s literally been years since I had one and I don’t want to wait until my skin hates me to start that pampering.  Lets be proactive. I’m not getting any younger, although it is said to be true that Capricorns age in reverse.  I can attest to the fact that I used to think I was like a 35 year old and serious as a jr. high kid.  Now I think I’m 16.  Don’t hate me when I’m youthfully glowing at age 72.

Anyway, enjoy the holiday vibes going on just about everywhere and take time for YOU in between all that present shopping.

Case in point below.  A wonderful Whole Foods trip that involved lots of gifts for family members also included me finding this (yet-to-be tasted) Mint Cocoa Califia Farms almond milk creamer.  Um yeah, I bought it for myself.  It was a necessity.  All in the name of self-love.  As was posing for a pic in front of the bulk nuts. IMG_6680

Be good to yourself this time of the month!  It’s not just the full moon phase; it’s almost a new calendar year.  2018 is in sight.  This is when you reassess and are able to see things in a new light.  We all have things we want to leave behind. It might have been wonderful once but nothing is meant to last forever and stay the same.

There’s nothing wrong with moving on from what no longer serves us.  Make room for the new surprises.

~Whitney Victoria

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Commitment Issues

It’s not what you think.  Well, maybe a little.  The last month or so I’ve really noticed how much I sign up for, RSVP “yes” to, and overall commit to doing that I just don’t actually want to do.  I’m an over-committer.

I’ve always been reliable and professional.  Committing to things seemed like a perfect way to prove that I was grown-up and trustworthy.  It was like a way to give myself proof  that I was doing the right thing.  Flaky people don’t complete fitness challenges or make plans months in advance, right?  It’s been my goal up until recently to present my best self to everyone at all times. That’s another major issue…but this lead me to care so much what people thought of me that I usually didn’t stop to think why I wanted to do it.

I’ve seen too many people cancel at the last minute or show up late or go from obsessing over the latest trend to forgetting all about it a month later.  For a reason I’m still unsure of, I labeled that kind of behavior “bad” or “wrong.”  Obviously, I didn’t want anyone to think of me that way.

I’m crediting mostly my amazing week in NJ at a Tony Robbins event with finally realizing who I want to be and how much I’m not being that person.  (Also another huge, long story, but truly groundbreaking for me.)

After that moment of seeing it all before me, it dawned on me that so many of my commitments I did in order to feel a certain way.  I’d force myself to go to meetings or show up for a shift of whatever when really I wanted to be at home baking or at the gym in a class. It’s been years since I’ve not had almost every single moment planned out.  I even made (make…I’m a work in progress) lists for my days off.  I’ll write down “watch Grey’s Anatomy, roast vegetables, shower.”  Seriously, I’ve written “shower” on my to-do lists…like I’d forget or something.

What I didn’t realize is that the things I’d forget to do probably weren’t things that got me excited or led me to some kind of joyful outcome.  I’m getting better and letting go and going with my impulses.  They don’t steer me wrong.  I just have to breathe and listen.

Maybe 2 weeks ago I told several people that they shouldn’t allow me to sign up for anything unless it was a one-time thing like one yoga class until the new year.  No going to that class and then buying a 10-class package so I’d pigeon-hole myself into going, thinking it was for my own good when really it would make me miserable.

This week I thought, “wait, me making a pact to not commit to anything is exactly the kind of stupid rules and games I’m trying to quit.”

It’s actually not about never making plans.  It’s about only doing things that make me happy.  That’s what matters.

In lighter news, my pecan pie was made using Pillsbury cinnamon rolls as the crust and this recipe for the filling.  (No corn syrup!)  It was pretty good but I think I’d like more filling next time since the rolls absorbed a lot of the moisture when baking. img_6523.jpgThe outfit.  Simple, festive-enough, and all pieces I already owned.  Weird for me, but I loved it this year. img_6546.jpgIt’s a tradition to go to Murdough’s Christmas Barn after eating Thanksgiving dinner.  This ornament is straight-up Law of Attraction.IMG_6548I appointed myself the table place card maker.  I found these little ornaments and tags.  I kept it simple and wrote each person’s name, after attaching the pinecones.  It was cute and something everyone could take home.img_6140.jpgIMG_5965

IMG_6531My tiny Hello Kitty tree is up at work!  Lucky I have a huge desk to fit all my holiday decorations.img_6561.jpg

Black Friday was goooood to me.  I got this tree for $23.  I’m fine with a semi-straggly tree this year when it’s just me enjoying it.  I’ve always been partial to the Charlie Brown trees of the lot anyway.  It’s clearly still in the works but at least it’s up!

img_6560.jpgOne month exactly until my birthday.  I like to do a little soul-searching this time of year. I’m striving for following my instincts so I can do more of what I love, more of the time.

~Whitney Victoria

Walnut Apple Oat Muffins (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

Funny story.  I’m making a pecan pie for Thanksgiving and had all my ingredients last week.  I was super proud of myself for having everything ready to go so early.  I was in the kitchen and glanced at the counter where I had that bags and noticed my pecans said “walnuts” on the bag!  Hah, I thought it was a little hilarious that I got everything but the pecans for a pecan pie.  I’m actually excited for this pie.  It’s a Whitney creation…Suffice it say, I had a large bag of chopped walnuts burning a hole in my pocket.

Enter these muffins.  I wanted to make something breakfast-worthy.  That means filling, with some fiber and protein, and not loaded with sugar.  I found this recipe then added my own spin, like I do.

These muffins are moist, hearty, and just sweet enough to still taste like a treat!  The nutty topping adds an extra crunch.

There were pretty many ingredients but they most things you probably have on hand.
img_8131.jpgPre-baked muffins.IMG_9597Post-baked muffins!img_2983.jpgI had some overflow onto another pan since the apples bulked it up.  I think next time I’ll split the batter for exactly 12 muffins.  I like high muffins that rise up over the paper edges.  It makes them look more like bakery-style ones!  img_6845.jpg

Another option could be pear and almond!  That might be good actually.

Walnut Apple Oat Muffins

(Approx. 12-16 muffins)

Ingredients:

     Muffins:

  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax with 2 tbsp water)
  • 1-1/2 cups gluten-free old fashioned oats
  • 1-1/4 cups gluten-free flour
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 apples, chopped

     Topping:

  • ¼ cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted (use salted butter if you’re not following a vegan diet)

 Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Fill muffin tins with liners
  3. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the applesauce, milk, melted coconut oil and flax egg until blended.
  4. Stir in the dry ingredients (oats, flour, walnuts, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt).
  5. Mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  6. Fold in chopped apple.
  7. Fill muffin cups until they’re full.
  8. In a small bowl, stir together the topping ingredients.
  9. Gently press topping over the batter in each cup.
  10. Bake for 16 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  11. Cool for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

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Thanksgiving is tomorrow!  Let’s be real and think of some things to appreciate.

~Whitney Victoria

On Tour

Good morning!

It was quite the busy weekend.  My mom and I finished up the Best Kept Secrets Tour on Saturday.  In that pouring, cold, rain.  Lots of puddles and umbrellas and soggy shopping bags.  It made it more adventurous!

So.  The Tour.  My mom first heard about it maybe 2 years ago from a friend.  It’s a lot of word-of-mouth news about this!  Which, to me, makes it even more fun. Stores and small businesses in one county (we did Berks) all are included as a tour stop.  You purchase a tour bag from certain shops.  They are all marked with signs.  The bags are filled with a tour booklet and some kind of flyer/business card/trinket from every store.  I think it’s exciting even just searching through my bag when I get it!  There’s usually free samples, pens, and tons of coupons.  The Tour book is pretty informative.  You know the dates of the tour – this is when the shops cater to us on the tour-and all the shop hours.  There is a map and distance of each stop to the next stop.  Even suggested routes are included.

We usually make a day of it two or three times throughout the tour because it’s much easier to start at one store in the morning and keep driving around and hit a bunch at one time.  We’ve run into super friendly workers and always get treats and things for visiting their stores.  Almost every stop has special discounts for “tour goers” through the dates.  It is run twice a year but this is my favorite because all these unique little shops have coupons so it’s even more affordable for Christmas gifts!

I guess I should mention that the entire point is get shoppers in to small businesses that most people don’t realize are right in their backyard.  We’ve discovered so many places through this and most are spots we’ve driven by for years!  I stole this from the website to explain all the types on the tour because they say it best!

“home, garden & gift stores housed in historic homes, restored barns, warehouses and even a hardware store, an alpaca farm where you can interact with the animals, art & artisan galleries, tucked away nurseries & garden centers, a pretzel bakery, gourmet foods & sweet shops with yummy treats for sampling, clothing, jewelry & accessories boutiques, amazing handmade crafts, a local favorite restaurant & a brand new cafe, furniture, antiques, vintage, upcycled & consignment shops, a gorgeous winery on an historic site, a few specialty shops and more!!”

It’s just a fun time driving around (but not that far) and feeling like we’re on a scavenger hunt.

I forgot to mention the best part!  Each place you go to has a ticket for you to fill out that gets entered in a drawing for a present or gift card.  I won the West Reading prize last year and won $600 worth of gift certificates!  My mom also won a jewelry prize! We’re lucky.  I’m sure our prizes are in the works already.

I bought this plaid wool hat I”m wearing from Killarney, Ireland from my favorite new shop we found, Evelyn and Harriets!  They have items from all over the world and only sell things that are unique and not found many other places.  Ornaments from Egypt, hand-made greetings cards from Germany, children’s toys that do not have any kind of electronics or batteries!  It’s very cool.

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While we were hitting some stores this week we stopped for seafood.  I had delicious sushi…that I ate with a knife and fork because I didn’t feel like dropping 10x the amount of rice on my lap than I did already!  It was great.  There was an amazing drizzle on top that I can’t remember!img_6404.jpgThis.  This is why I brave the crowds and go to Wal-Mart occasionally.  $3 turkey hair clips are a must-buy.  img_6402.jpgAnd…tiny bragging but the official Hello Dolly Broadway instagram used my picture!  I was pretty excited about that.  I’m famous! hah!fullsizeoutput_1ff1I went thrift shopping for the first time in months and hit a pocket of excellence.  Including the above pictured Free People dress.  My haul also includes a sequin skirt, and a fabulous vintage sweater that I’m sure one of the Golden Girls wore.  (Newsflash: That means I love it.)img_6475.jpg

I was sent some coffee shots to try and they really are decent.  I can’t believe their natural energy drinks!  That never happens. I’m not a big energy drink gal but this was fun to drink. I could see adding it to a cup of coffee…wait, does that defeat the purpose? IMG_6477

 Have a wonderful, peaceful but joyful holiday week!  I’ll be prepping my pecan pies, muffins, and this Black Friday plans.

Anyone else heading out on Friday?  I can’t wait!

~Whitney Victoria

cold weather, cozy weather

Hats, scarves,gloves!  Tights, boots, real coats.  I wore it all this week.  I think even if you hate the cold, there is plenty to look forward to once the nip gets in the air.

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I actually went to the mall the other day, mostly to see the Christmas decorations, under the guise of searching for black riding boots.   People might seem more bustling during the holidays but I think it’s a time to slow down.  When the weather turns cold, it’s a sign we should cozy up under blankets, wear thick sweaters, don your long-johns!  It’s my favorite thing in the morning to blast my car heater on the way to work.

I think it’s in my DNA as a winter baby to love it but this is when I feel the most hopeful, like magic can happen.  Christmas miracles and all that.

There’s so much to look forward to!  The best gifts are out starting now-December 24th.   I get sooo excited seeing it all out in stores.  (Online shopping is not fun to me!) Shopping this time of year has a philanthropic feel to me.  I’m getting presents and decorations to share with everyone I love! Like this insanely cute Corgi sweater leggings.

img_6338.jpgAnd I’m convinced I need to buy the two bags of Starbucks coffee just to get this tiny tote bag for myself for free!  I’m obsessed with that quote.  It’s me. img_6347.jpgI saw the bags while getting my first Cranberry Bliss Bar.  I NEED to find a healthy homemade recipe this season.  They’re so good but not really worth the sugar too often for me.  Once in a while is just perfect!img_6330.jpg

This weekend was our big push for the Best Kept Secrets Tour.  I’ll expand on that later.  It’s so fun!

Christmas candy abound at Reppert’s.  I had so many free samples at 10am Saturday that I will legit admit my breakfast was pure chocolate.

The best way to describe me and free samples is this:

My mom picked up raspberry jellies, vanilla caramels, and peanut butter chocolates for Thanksgiving and we’re both anxious to eat them! If anyone wants holiday candy, check it out!  They even had Nittany Lion and cornucopia shaped chocolates.  Surprisingly, I walked away with just a bag of root beer barrels!  They’re delicious and remind me of picking hard candy out of a basket at my grandparents’.IMG_6378I’m an old cat lady, except even sadder because I don’t have a cat at the moment.  Hah!  I loved this sign so much.  I’ll just skip the nap bit.IMG_6353

This is a selfish bonus screenshot for you!  Ina Garten posting about Taylor.  <3 Made my day being reminded how much these two love each other.fullsizeoutput_1fd8.jpeg

I’m making these!  No Bake Peppermint Bark Cookies. How have I missed this recipe previous years??  They’re like 5 minutes.f

No-Bake Peppermint Bark Cookies | The Suburban Soapbox

You guys can have your pumpkin stuff! “Peppermint Everything” is my motto this time of year.   Anyone have favorite seasonal things they love seeing?

Feel the holiday cheer.  It’s out there if you take notice.

~Whitney Victoria

Reputations

I’m entirely excited and in major anticipation for Reputation.  I have had “Call It What You Want” on repeat for the last week.  One. More. Day. People.  I may have all the songs pre-released already memorized.  I’m planning my concert outfit.  I’m buying a sweatshirt like Taylor’s on the cover. No shame whatsoever.

I realized I never showcased the beautiful architecture in Connecticut, mostly on the Yale campus, so here goes.

This is the The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion  that we just stopped by to check out.  It was closed the only day we could see it but the exterior was so cool to see from the walking trails around it.  It was built in 1864 and has been used for several movie scenes.  Just walking the grounds around it felt eerie to me.  There was definitely some kind of strange presence. IMG_5624IMG_5622IMG_5619

After that, we heading to New Haven to see the Yale campus.  It was better than I imagined.  I expected like 2 buildings to have some cool windows or whatever.  Old Campus was made up almost entirely of Victorian Gothic structures.  So beautiful.

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Sorry I’m wearing the same outfit in every pic.  There was no time or place for a wardrobe change.

You can’t get the whole feel of the campus by the odd angles and view we took.  All in an attempt to capture the enormousness and detail of the buildings.

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Every door was immense and intimidating.  I loved how the student id scanners were placed on the crazy old gates.  Some buildings were built in 1750!

Yes, there was tons of ivy at the ivy league.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.  Some halls had it growing up the entire side of the building and down on the ground floor.

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There was a great street with shops and little restaurants so we had to hit the college bookstore.

IMG_5659IMG_5774IMG_5896I had just grabbed ice cream when we decided it was necessary for one last souvenir.  I bought a mug…it makes me feel super collegiate while drinking my coffee.IMG_5703IMG_5705On the way home we found some cute shops in New Canaan as well.  The fox is my spirit animal.  I had to pose.img_5845.jpg

This was the best!  My own personal store had unique little gifts and table decor.

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Look at the sister store that was next door!

IMG_5926Our night ended in Westport at the prettiest Anthropologie I’ve ever laid eyes on.IMG_5831IMG_5780img_5711.jpgimg_5713.jpg

Anyone else buying Taylor’s album?  You know you want to.

“T” minus 1 day.

~Whitney Victoria