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Getting Ready for Christmas in Charlottesville

Can you believe Christmas is in exactly one week? Where did time go? I just barely finished my Christmas shopping, which is pretty much a miracle it happened this far in advance. Little by little, I’m starting to get in the Christmas spirit.

Just last week I shared with you that I’d be heading across the country for Christmas. I’m starting to think all of my Christmases will be spent traveling far from home, as last year I ventured to New York and London before settling down in Paris for Christmas. Ooh, next year in somewhere tropical is sounding pretty delicious right now..

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Meet Tony Danza, our really sad Christmas tree.

But, this year will be spent in Charlottesville, VA where the average high during my stay will be a chilly and rainy 46 F. Not quite tropical, but I’m still very excited! I’ve never been to Charlottesville, but from everything Chef tells me, I think I’ll love it. And after looking at the Visit Charlottesville site, I’m pretty happy to see they share my priorities (see their whole page dedicated to Vineyards, Breweries and Cideries in the area)! I think we’ll get along just fine, Charlottesville.

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Chocolate Sugar Cookies

All last week it was raining in Napa. It’s supposed to start up again this week and I’m definitely less than thrilled. I know we need it desperately, but all I want to do is stay snuggled up to Mr. Leon with a cup of coffee, some tasty treats, and a good book. Sort of like I did when I discovered I had leftover cookies from the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! Lucky for me, dogs can’t chocolate, so I got to keep them to myself.

The perfect breakfast.

Can’t this be breakfast everyday?

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A Tourist’s Guide to Christmastime in New York City

Can you believe it’s almost Christmas? Like, where did the time go?

And while I’m still not exactly sure when specifically it’s okay to start talking about the “holiday season” (before Thanksgiving? After Halloween? Thanks for the confusion, big retail), I think I’m in the clear at this point in time. Thanksgiving just happened and Christmas is less than 3 weeks away!

Third only to birthday month and the entire fall season, the holiday season is truly one of my favorite times of year. We get to spend time with friends and family, sure, but I really love baking (obviously) and seeing how others celebrate. Whether it’s a different culture, city, or even just a next door neighbor, I love seeing what the holidays mean of other people! This year, I’ll be heading to Viriginia for Christmas with Chef’s family. I’m really excited to be heading to a new place to celebrate the holiday and learn which traditions make the holiday special for their family. My feelings of excitement and wanderlust for Virginia are very reminiscent of what I was doing this time last December.

Merry Christmas from the Tide Snowman

In Napa, we don’t get snow. So, this guy made my day!

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What I’m Thankful For

The clamor of our carving knives has subsided and we’ve woken up from our tryptophan-fueled naps. That’s right, guys, we made it through Thanksgiving! I wanted to give you all a break from reviving the economy while shopping for your friends and family this #CyberMonday to share with you how my holiday went. Never one to follow the rules completely, I had two Thanksgiving dinners! One with my family on Wednesday and one with my friend-family on Thursday. Both were simply perfect. And now, to continue on the tradition of sharing with you what I’m most thankful for (see here and here), I give you the 2014 edition:

My family– Throughout the holiday season, despite some living as far away as New Orleans, we always make a point to be together. My family loves and supports me, even though I can be pretty particular. Except for Marvin and Betsey– they simply tolerate me.

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Chef and Mr. Leon– I’m not really sure what I’d do without these two goofballs. They take care of me when I’m sick, are always down for a good cuddle sesh on the couch, and give me reasons to smile every single day.

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My friends– always down to get together, be it for an earthquake relief concert, cocktail and gab sesh, or grown-up girls’ sleepover, these people keep me going throughout life’s ups and downs. And they know all of my secrets, so we kinda have to stay friends.

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And finally, I’m forever thankful to you. You read my blog, share my recipes, and every once in a while send me sweet little notes and comments. I’d originally started In Natalie’s Shoes as both a way to document and share my misadventures around the world and in the kitchen. But all of you are what keep me posting. I love meeting you in real life, swapping cookies/recipes in the mail, and regularly being inspired to cook what you cook and travel where you travel. You guys are pretty darn awesome. So thank you, I truly am grateful for you.

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday and I look forward to continuing this internet friendship! xo Nat

Your Guide to Holiday Eating

This time of year is my absolute favorite. So. much. good. food! And we all know how much I like food. So guys, grab a drink (preferably something bubbly and fun), it’s time to have a serious talk.

You’re going to either be going to or hosting holiday parties over the next 6-8 weeks (some of us like to celebrate things longer than others. Don’t judge!). As a host, you’re responsible for quite a bit of food and that can be overwhelming. As a guest, you need to bring something. Wine/booze is always a good bet, but sometimes your host wants you to help out with the second best part of parties: food. Do not be a jerk and take the easy route, bringing something like crackers and cheez-whiz to a party! (First of all, ew.) You need to bring something mostly homemade. And I’m sharing the easy recipes below that will help you fool party guests into thinking you’re a kitchen pro. Read the rest of this entry

Playing Tourist: V. Sattui Winery

As most of you know, I live in the Napa Valley. Because of this, I am frequently asked where to go for food, wine, and the best Napa experiences. While various wineries all have different niches they fill (small private parties vs. groups vs. food pairings vs. art displays, etc.), one of the wineries I always recommend to Napa newbs and am always bringing groups to is V. Sattui in St. Helena, CA off of the famous Highway 29.! Surely you’ve realized now that I love playing tourist in my backyard! 

Recently, I was contacted by RelayRides to take part in their Hometown Hidden Gems page on Pinterest. I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of RelayRides until they contacted me. It’s a peer-to-peer way of sharing cars, sort of like an AirBnB, and it makes a lot of sense for people who either don’t use their cars often or who travel a lot. There are options to either rent your own car out (and make some skrilla on the side) or to rent a car when you need one for a reasonable price. RelayRides also has pretty sweet sounding airport rental program at SFO where you can leave your car there for free parking! when you fly out and some money if your car is rented while you’re away. This is great for people heading into SFO to head up to Napa Valley :) Anyway, I was excited to share one of the “hidden gems” of Napa Valley that first came to mind for me, V. Sattui.

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Getting Ready for Puerto Vallarta

I can’t believe how quickly time has passed! Weeks ago, I’d been planning on doing a post about the super awesome vacation Chef and I have planned. And now, we’re less than a week days away from our trip to Puerto Vallarta! I’ve been trying to remember all of the cool things to do in Puerto Vallarta, but I haven’t been to PV since I was a senior in high school and, honestly, a lot of the trip is a blur. Thanks for that, Señor Frogs.

Thankfully, Chef and I have so researched many delightful ideas for what we might do: surfing, pool-lounging with trashy celebrity/food/fashion/life magazines in hand, cocktail-sipping beach-side, stuffing our faces during food tours, cruises, ATV tours.. But nothing is firmly scheduled. Yes, we have a bunch of great ideas for our deliciously long getaway from the States.

Yes, lots of these will be happening. Photo via Cote Writes

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