Home for the Holidays

Uh oh... Here I go again with the quoting. This time, it's a classic holiday hit.

Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays! If you want to be happy in a million ways... For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home.

I could rack my brain, analyze my emotions and spend some time trying to put these lyrics into my own words. But, sometimes the words you want to say already exist -- perhaps in a song lyric, book quote or movie line. When what I want to say has already been said, I avoid becoming tongue-tied and attempting to paraphrase. Instead, I simply throw up some quotations marks, give credit where it's due, apply it to my life and forget the rest.

Ah... the beauty of quotes.

The past few weeks I haven't been on my blogging A game. I could make an excuse about how the holidays are hectic or how the traffic is terrific. (I'm sure you've heard it all before.) But, instead I'll tell you the honest truth.

I've been enjoying my time at home with friends and family.

Perry Como may have said it first in his song "Home For The Holidays," but I resonate with his words as if they were my own. I probably couldn't have said it any better or more spot-on if I tried; for the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home. 

Meet Kristina, my best friend whose pretty face would be featured here a lot more often if we still lived within the same zipcode. We were inseparable until distance literally separated us 8 years ago when she moved from down the street to across the country. Hanging out every day has since been replaced by Skype sessions and biannual visits. For this reason, the holiday season is always extra merry knowing I get to share it with my best friend.

Whether we're sweating (edit: dying) through a Pure Barre class or browsing shops on Main Street, having my partner-in-crime back in town makes everything more fun. Our favorite spot to catch up on life is at a cozy little Starbucks tucked right below The Maryland Inn. I promise this isn't the average coffee chain you're used to -- it's the most charming Starbuck's I've been to (and I've been to way too many across the U.S.)

With adorable little nooks and cozy corners, the space exerts such a peaceful vibe. This historic basement, complete with exposed brick walls and low ceilings, is the ultimate place to sip on a Chai Tea Latte while reading a best-seller or chatting with a friend. Here, Kristina and I debated which cookies we should bake this year and came up with our master plan.

The skills I lack in cooking, I make up for in baking. If I do say so myself.

This year, Kristina and I went all out. Instead of sticking to a more traditional Christmas cookie recipe, we scouted out the yummiest and prettiest cookies Pinterest had to offer. After thoughtful consideration, we decided on the complimentary trio of Peppermint Mocha, Red Velvet Cheesecake and Cranberry Bliss.

With Christmas music playing in the background, we spent two days in the kitchen together -- measuring and mixing, baking and frosting. We laughed a lot, burned a batch, broke an electric mixer and taste-tested a few too many. (And then we repeated all those steps again and again... and again.) By the end of our bake-a-thon, we had more cookies than we knew what to do with. I mean dozens upon dozens -- cookies galore! Luckily, we have family and friends with a strong sweet tooth to count on. ;)

Although it was hard to choose a favorite, just about everyone liked the Cranberry Bliss cookie best. Made with white chocolate chunks, dried cranberries and cream-cheese icing, this cookie is a spin-off of a seasonal treat at Starbucks. For years it has been my guilty pleasure. While most coffee aficionados mark the start of winter with the popular red cup craze, I anxiously await the return of the Cranberry Bliss Bar.

Do you have a favorite holiday treat? A killer cookie recipe?

Find the original recipes here: Peppermint Mocha / Red Velvet Cheesecake / Cranberry Bliss

Though I've been MIA on the blog, the past few weeks have been days well spent. As the season winds down and I get back into the groove of things, I'm grateful to reflect on the holidays with you here.

To recap, I have...

Watched every Christmas movie on Netflix. Bonded with my "little" cousins who are unbelievably bigger each time I see them. Exchanged meaningful gifts with friends who always know how to make me smile. Ate pizza for dinner on the reg. Celebrated my parent's 22nd wedding anniversary. Ran out of gas on the highway. Read three novels. Cherished time spent with my best friend who lives halfway across the country. Caught up on sleep. Fell in love with my hometown all over again. Snapped some photos. Rooted for my team in the Rose Bowl. Kissed the love of my life at midnight for the third consecutive New Years. Spent the holidays at home, sweet home.

What made your holidays special this year?