Thanks for joining me for another Nine Favorite Things post.

Nine Favorite Things | halfbakedharvest.com

I just spent the last ten or so minutes looking back at this time last year. One of the things I love most about both Instagram and writing these Sunday Favorite’s posts is that they both document time and special moments, giving us an opportunity to look back on them. I wasn’t always the best documenter of life’s happenings, and I’m still not that great. But because of Instagram and writing these posts I’ve been forced to get better, and I am so thankful for that.

Looking back at precisely this time last year, I was in New York experiencing my first December in the city that lives and breaths Christmas. If you remember, I was there promoting the Half Baked Harvest Super Simple Cookbook. I filmed a segment with Good Morning America, made an appearance on Rachel Ray, hosted a couple of book signings, and did a live cooking event at Williams-Sonoma. Twas’ quite the trip.

Wow, things could not be more different this year. That was the last time I was in NYC. I had said I’d be bringing my mom and Asher back with me on this year’s December trip. Little did I know what this year would hold. So different, but I know that NYC trip will happen another year, and now we can bring Oslo too. And I am loving the time I have at home. Though I’ve somehow managed to fill it with A LOT. Somehow it feels busier than ever. Which I secretly love.

Some photos from that NYC trip because I love them so much…

The beautiful tree at the Lotte Palace Hotel

Christmas in Central Park…it’s just missing the snow

Moving along to current times! Everyone in my family is already trickling in for the holidays and my mom wouldn’t have it any other way. They cut down the family tree on Friday and it’s a biggie…my brothers are very concerned about the amount of space they’ll have to move about the living room. But that’s my mom, she loves a bigger than life Clark Griswold style tree. So, it’s safe to say that she and Asher have been decorating all weekend long. It’s full-on Christmas here! We just need a bit more snow!

Question: are you all getting into the holiday spirit more than ever this year. I think everyone agrees, we need the holidays this year! What are you doing to celebrate? And how are you decorating?

And the real question…are you a classic white lights kind of person or do you go for the colored? I am a classic girl all the way.

Coming up this week on the blog, we’ll start Monday off with a skillet dinner that I know you guys will love. I made it on a whim the other day and it turned out delicious! Then on to something sweet on Tuesday that will be great for that cookie box! To round out the week we’ve got an easy slow cooker dinner that will feed the family over Christmas break, a delicious side, and yet another holiday sweet come Friday. And for Saturday? We have the coziest Christmas cocktail that I’m already excited to share.

1. Things I’m loving, wanting, and excited to try…

watching…Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special. Growing up, my favorite Christmas memories were dancing around the kitchen and baking cookies with my mom while listening to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Just like everyone else in the world, we love a little Mariah Carey Christmas. So this special just moved to my “must watch” Christmas list.

baking…Easy Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls. Tis the season so why not. These are my favorite for Christmas.

loving…Zara. Ordering this cozy hoodie, love these lug sole leather boots, and I adore this woven knit cardigan (and the brown color). 

gifting…Canyon Coffee. Has anyone tried this coffee? Thinking of getting some for my dad for Christmas.

watching…Free Form’s 25 Days of Christmas. I knew nothing about this, but my cousin alerted me. It’s safe to say I know what I will be watching for the next 20 days. Well, this and everything on Hallmark…I’m going to need to add some days to this month!

thinking about ordering…this Heretic Dirty Gingerbread Candle. I don’t need another candle, but I’m dying to try this!

drinking…White Christmas Mojitos!

following…Sarah Solis. I just read all about her. What an incredible interior designer. The homes she has worked on are beautiful.

gifting…Clue Vintage Bookshelf Edition. I have always loved Clue, but this vintage edition is so pretty and would make the perfect Secret Santa gift.

excited to watch…The Undoing. My cousin Abby is recommending this, BUT I know everyone is watching it. As soon as December is over, I will too! Have you seen it yet?

2. December 2019’s…Most Popular Recipes.

One Skillet Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken and Orzo | halfbakedharvest.com #skilletdinner #chicken #orzo

Most popular: One Skillet Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken and Orzo

One Pot Creamy French Onion Pasta Bake | halfbakedharvest.com #pasta #frenchonion #easyrecipes

Runner-up: One Pot Creamy French Onion Pasta Bake

Pull-Apart Garlic Butter Bread Wreath | halfbakedharvest.com #garlicbread #Christmas

Also have to mention: Pull-Apart Garlic Butter Bread Wreath

Salted Caramel Pretzel Snickerdoodles | halfbakedharvest.com #cookies #snickerdoodles #christmas

And let’s not forget: Salted Caramel Pretzel Snickerdoodles

Holly Jolly Santa Cookies | halfbakedharvest.com #santacookies #sugarcookies

OK. OK. And lastly: Holly Jolly Santa Cookies

3. My Ideal Stocking Stuffers…

4. Favorite Questions of The Week.

q: How do I get my sugar cookies to hold their shape while baking? 
a: Instead of chilling the dough and then rolling, trying rolling out the dough, cutting it into cookies, and then chilling the cut cookies before baking. This is how I do it! Works with pie dough too!

q: What is your favorite beverage for a cold winter afternoon?
a: My Creamy Coconut Hot Chocolate or last week’s Salted Caramel Brûlée Latte!

q: How Do you organize your week work-wise? 
a: To be honest, I wish I was more organized. I definitely haven’t found my perfect way of doing things. But usually, I’m cooking Monday-Friday, while working on the computer in the morning and at night writing, editing, and attempting to manage my inbox. Then weekends a bit too…it’s hard to really take breaks! I need to be better about it!

5. 25 Days Of Christmas…

Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas | halfbakedharvest.com #holiday #DIY #crafts #christmas

25 – Make Homemade Ornaments 

I’ve always loved getting creative with Christmas decor. I try to make a new ornament every year. It can be easy to do with things you probably have on hand. I love baking gingerbread cookies and turning them into cute ornaments. Grab the full how-to for my Glittered Gingerbread Christmas Tree Ornaments here.

Read: 25 of Our Most Memorable Handmade Christmas Ornaments

24 – A New Christmas Movie Every Night! 

I shared my favorites last week, but everyone pointed out that I left SO MANY out, so sharing some more below!

1. White Christmas
2. Love Actually
3. The Holiday
4. Klaus
5. Christmas Chronicles
6. A Christmas Story
7. Jingle Jangle
8. Four Christmases
9. The Family Stone
10. Arthur Christmas

Reader – Instead of buying wrapping paper, I save up paper bags to paint and then use greenery, dried, fruit, and twine to decorate. 

Love this. Such a cute idea and cost-efficient too!

23 – Coziest Homemade Hot Toddy Kit

I’ve always loved putting together homemade gifts. Cocktails sets are always so fun! Hot Toddy’s are SIMPLE. They make for the perfect gift box. Grab my how to make the Coziest Homemade Hot Toddy Kit here.

And then here are some more homemade gift ideas some of you guys shared with us on Instagram…

1. Spa day items
2. Cookie making kits
3. Granola
4. Cinnamon roll kits
5. Italian date night
6. Homemade blankets
7. Homemade ornaments
8. Hot cocoa kits
9. Homemade candles
10. Popcorn, movie, and cute slippers

Reader – Blindfolded Gingerbread House Competition…It’s the best! 

This sounds really fun, but why the blindfold?

22 – 6 Easy DIY Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas

I love finding everyone the perfect gift. That means everything from the gift itself to the wrapping. I get this from my grandma. She used to take so much time and care wrapping gifts, you could almost feel the love she put into each and every gift. I try to do the same and have so much fun doing so. Especially when I really take the time to do it. My secret is to use inexpensive brown craft paper and decorate each gift using spices, herbs, candies, ribbon, and whatever I can find lying around the house/kitchen. Have fun with your gift wrapping this year, with these easy ideas!

See My 6 Easy DIY Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas here.

Some of the products I use are linked below!

1. festive ribbon

2. candy canes

3. icing and glitter

4. holiday stamps

5. white reindeer ornament

kola baby ornament

dashing dog ornament 

6. gingerbread cookies

7. herbs and dry spices (like cinnamon and star anise)

8. sleigh bells – these are so cute!

9. mini Christmas trees or any of these

6. The Charities We Are Giving To This Christmas.

Every Christmas my family does a Secret Santa. There are a lot of us, so the Secret Santa is always so much fun! I love to give gifts, especially GOOD gifts. This is probably why I have so much fun putting together our holiday giveaways on Instagram every year. Something about seeing someone so excited over a gift is just the best feeling!

I think I get this from my mom. She’s such a great gift giver and has always taught me that giving is so much more fun than receiving. Mom’s also such an advocate for giving back to charities she is passionate about. She’s always made a point to give to charities not only during the holidays but all year long. This Christmas we’re focusing on a couple of charities that have become especially important to my family.

Special Angels Adoption

Special Angels is the adoption agency my parents worked with when adopting our little brother, Oslo this year. My family will forever be grateful to Special Angels for helping Oslo find his way to our family. He is so loved by everyone and already such a part of our family.

Special Angels, places infants (and sometimes children) with special needs with loving adoptive families who a willing to parent a child with disabilities. The work they do is truly incredible, inspiring, and humbling. They have helped so many children connect with families who will love and care for them throughout their lives. My mom calls them miracle workers, but their title Special Angels truly is fitting.

SAA is trying to raise 1.5M. Their goal is to make all of their adoptions to qualified families free. They don’t want the expenses of adoption ever to stand in the way of any family wishing to take in a special needs child. If you are able, please consider making a donation here. And while on their website, I encourage you to read more about Special Angels and the families they’ve helped. I promise you, you’ll walk away feeling inspired to help others who might be less fortunate. You can also simply text Special Angels to 44321.

My Dad and Oslo…possibly my favorite photo. Every time I look at it, I smile.

My brother Red, his girlfriend, Hailey, and little Oslo. Another favorite photo. Love these guys.

Oslo, fast asleep in my cousin Maggie’s arms

Operation Warm

Operation Warm is a non-profit that provides kids in need with the gift of a brand-new winter coat. In our communities, nearly one in five children lives in need. For their families, paying for food, housing, heat, and healthcare takes priority. Many children have to forego the physical and emotional warmth a winter coat can provide. Over the last 20 years, Operation Warm has used the coat as a bridge for families in need to access everything from flu shots to new books. We’re excited to support Operation Warm this year.

Your donation will bring warmth, confidence, and hope to children living in need. Again, if you’re able, you can make a donation here and learn about their mission here.

Question: What are the charities you and your family love to support?

7. Favorite Links I’m Loving…

30 Gifts for the Food Lover in Your Life

How Team Domino Is Decorating for the Holidays

How to Keep From Getting Emotionally Drained During the Holidays

10 New Holiday Traditions to Try This Year…love these fun ideas! As I mentioned, I want to watch all of Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas.

9 Festive Holiday Nail Colors to Try…all about that Evergreen shade. Or Oxblood.

Get Your Fresh Start One Month Early: It’s Time to Organize the Kitchen Cabinets

A Definitive Ranking of the Worst Things You Can Do to Your Hair

The Best Winter Hand Creams

How To Buy Jeans Online

How to Care For A Fresh Christmas Tree…all the tips and tricks you need.

6 Things My Therapist Taught Me About Relationships…if you’re struggling with your relationships, read this.

9 Pairs of Fleece-Lined Leggings That Are the Equivalent of a Warm Hug…might just have to order a pair for my mom.

The 17 Best Cashmere Scarves on the Internet…ordering this affordable scarf and then maybe splurging on this one.

The Sephorathon Holiday Savings Event Is On…a list of all the best buys.

10 Holiday Movie + Snack + PJ Pairings You Should Try Tonight…oh I love these ideas. So cozy.

Soo You Drank Too Much Spiked Eggnog…here’s how to treat your skin after a hangover.

The Must-Haves In Getting Through the Holiday Season…from some of your favorite celebs.

8. Cozy Cashmere Knits.

9. This Week’s Dinners…

Sesame Chicken Dumplings in Spicy Broth with Garlic Crisps | halfbakedharvest.com

Monday: Sesame Chicken Dumplings in Spicy Broth with Garlic Crisps

Spicy Pesto Pasta Alla Vodka | halfbakedharvest.com

Tuesday: Spicy Pesto Pasta Alla Vodka

Winter Pomegranate Salad with Maple Candied Walnuts | halfbakedharvest.com #wontersalad #healthy

Wednesday: Winter Salad with Maple Candied Walnuts

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Salmon | halfbakedharvest.com #salmon #garlicbutter #easyrecipes

Thursday: Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Salmon

Shredded Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pizza | halfbakedharvest.com

Friday: Shredded Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pizza

The Sweet and Spicy Cheermeister Cocktail | halfbakedharvest.com

Saturday Drink: The Sweet and Spicy Cheermeister Cocktail

Salted Caramel Brulee Latte | halfbakedharvest.com

Warming Sunday Latte: Salted Caramel Brûlée Latte

Check out all the past Nine Favorite Things posts here.

Lastly, if you’re catching up on blog posts from the week, be sure to sign up for our daily newsletters. They’ll help you to stay up to date with everything that’s happening here, as well as fun content you’ll only get via email. If you’re meal planning today, don’t forget to check out my menu below (it’s # 9 on the favorite’s list). You can grab the full grocery list for this week’s menu in our special Sunday newsletter.

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  1. I love white lights on a tree! My husband likes some color, but this year he is humoring me and we’re just doing white lights with popcorn strands and ornaments. I also love cutting a few branches from our holly tree and using them for decor. We have a shelf above our couch with the white unity candle set from our wedding and the holly looks perfect up there.

  2. Brown paper wrapped gifts are my most absolute favorite thing in the world. There’s something so simplistic but also sophisticated. And the add-ons are endless. Hey, if someone doesn’t think the same thing there’s also a song proving it. LOL!!
    Seriously, I also like the idea for repurposing the brown paper… it’s better for the environment.

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