HOLIDAZED: GLITZY + GLAM FOR NEW YEAR'S EVE


The best thing about New Year’s Eve... has got to be the costume outfit. Whether I’m headed out to big ball of a party or a festive dinner at home, I’m always excited to adorn myself, or my table, at least with something sparkly. And what gets me every year is how perfectly creative the options continue to become. Vintage, brand new, last year's; it's always exciting. This holiday isn't my favorite, as it can often end up being expensive and underwhelming, but seeing everyone in their fun party outfits gets me every time! So to channel my obsession with all the great options out there, here's a list of the most lust-worthy ones, perfect for December 31st or just another Tuesday afternoon. Enjoy darling! Xx













-MGN

HOLIDAZED: A GLAMOROUS NEW YEAR'S EVE TABLESCAPE


I'll be honest, I've never really cared for New Year's Eve... I have however enjoyed finding a cute sparkly dress and having one last hoorah to end the holiday season. I have recently vowed to either be on vacation or at home from now on, in order to avoid the dread of celebrating this holiday in the city I live in. But I guess I will have to wait until next year to live that dream out since my fiancé and I have decided to go to a nightclub, unfortunately. What we will be doing, however, is having a nice dinner party at home with some friends beforehand, and so my dream came half true, as we will get to spend some time inside our own place, sans sloppy people who I know have every intention of ruining my sequin dress. So I had a really fun evening planning this dinner table and an even more fun enjoying the fruits of our labor sitting and nibbling on a mini feast, watching the sunset. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did and get inspired for your own celebration ringing in the New Year. Enjoy! 

THE SETUP: Most likely you will be hosting at nighttime, especially since it gets dark so early this time of year. But for this shoot I wanted to have a nice view of the ocean, so I started setting up about an hour prior to the scheduled sunset time. One thing I wanted to incorporate that I just completely forgot about was balloons! I had thrown my friend an engagement party the week before and we had a bunch of beautiful balloons I will certainly be getting again for the actual holiday. My idea was to have them tied above the table on the back of each chair. Even without the balloons, however, it turned out even better than expected. I started with this beautiful blue damask tablecloth that complimented silver accents just as well as it went along with my mismatched set of blue and white plates. Then I put another layer down with my toile table runner for some contrast and dimension. Is there anything more romantic than a tapered candlelight?! So I started with about 6 small silver votive candles and then added three tapered ones in these beautiful short crystal holders. Without the balloons my plan was to not go too far out with the New Years decorations so I just stuck with these large tinsel drink stirrers, which I was surprised to find out were so large but you could easily cut them to fit any glass. I also added them in the silver ice bucket I used for champagne and on each plate for a little extra decoration. To present the food I really wanted to use this silver three tiered serving tray I found at Home Goods recently by Nicole Miller but I couldn't find it anywhere online so I linked a few similar ones (123). They are usually made for desserts but it made our main course look extra special! I would make sure you can easily remove a layer in case you don't have 20 guests to consume three levels of desserts every time! I also finally used these adorable cocktail napkins my sister sent Arthur and I with a special personalized embroidery on them. How cute is this Frenchie and check out all their other designs, I want every single one!

THE FOOD/DRINK: The obvious show stopper is my mini champagne tower! The key to a tower is to use all the same size champagne saucers. The math of arranging them works like this: if you start with a row of 10 x 10, then the next layer will be 9 x 9, 8 x 8, etc. Mine was just for decoration so I did not pour from the top like you would with a real tower, so that the champagne trickles down into each glass. Instead I stacked five at the bottom, then two, and then one. But if you are going to actually do this yourself, please stick to the appropriate math to ensure no glasses get hurt! In addition to the tower I also laid out some raspberries, dried blood orange slices, blackberries and edible flowers to compliment the champagne. Other good ideas would be sugar cubes, rosemary or lavender depending on what you can find and what looks the best! I put them in champagne flutes but I think champagne saucers are more practical for people to grab and looked prettier in my opinion. For appetizers I of course made a cheese plate because I just can't entertain without one. I had a robiola bosina (creamy like brie), smoked cheddar and a humboldt fog. Of course I had my signature raw honeycomb addition as always, toffee peanutsblack olive breadsticks, these delicious chocolate and cocoa powdered almonds and a delicious salami all on my marble board, with these marble cheese utensils. The best part, however, was the delicious take and break bread we found at our grocery store from La Brea Bakery. I highly recommend getting any bread like this so it's warm and fresh when you bake it quickly at home. You can find them alongside the fresh bread section at most stores. For the main dish my fiancé grilled lobster tails, asparagus, fillet mignon and salmon for me with a yummy black olive tapenade. He also made the most delicious truffle gnocchi that could easily give Mastro's some steady competition. It was absolutely delicious. For dessert we made chocolate truffles but they weren't ready in time to shoot unfortunately. I will have to do another post later on making them because it's really not that difficult, as evidenced by the fact I have made them on my own! Enjoy!













-MGN

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HOLIDAZAED: CHIC CHRISTMAS CHEESE PLATE


It's been a while... Since my last cheese plate, which is crazy given it's the one and only culinary contribution I feel confident about feeding other people! But given the recent circumstances such as my wedding detox this summer and the simple fact that I haven't had a kitchen since August, let alone a finished space to host friends, perhaps it's not that surprising. So as you'd expect I was quite excited to create something festive and yummy as my contribution for a holiday potluck and this was the final result! Enjoy!



As always, I started with three different cheeses and build the rest around them. To make it festive, I started with a cranberry infused hard cheese and fromager d'Affinois with garlic and herb, which worked perfectly because they checked my salty vs sweet and hard vs soft variety I like to have on every cheese plate I make. I added the Irish cheddar, cut in small cubes as a safety net for anyone scared of messing up the plate or looking for a more approachable, easy grab.



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My other cheese plate staple, raw honeycomb, which is fully edible by the way, stayed relatively still with my border of rosemary garnish. Rosemary is perhaps the easiest of all garnishes to find and add to any dish to make it instantly more festive! Same with the cinnamon sticks and faux cranberry garnish, super easy additions to dress up anything you make! Other accoutrements I used were candied pecans, blackberries and figs. As for crackers, I went with some classic breadsticks and my favorite thin and perfectly salted crackers I always end up with at the store. 



-MGN

CLASSIC STYLE: THE BEST MONOGRAMMED GIFTS


Make it personal... This is the easiest way to show someone some thought, hence why I love monogramed items. They just make my favorite things feel more special knowing it was made just for me and I always appreciate the thoughtfulness of a monogrammed gift. So here are my favorite picks, but also below are a bunch of great monograming shops that you still have time to order from before Christmakkuh! You're welcome!

MORE TO LOVE


MY FAVORITE BRANDS THAT MONOGRAM


-MGN

DECEMBER INSPIRATION


IT'S HERE... I know we say this every year, but how did time fly so fast?! It's December and as excited as I am about the full on holiday festivities, I am also getting more and more anxious about our condo remodel getting finished. It's this weather (50 degrees in LA) and season that makes me crave the coziness of a warm, and at this point, just completely finished, home. Aside from living in absolute chaos, the most difficult part of the build has been our separation from our little frenchie Pierre, who unfortunately we haven't been able to be primary caregivers to since August. Turns out that dust, nails and unfinished flooring is unsuitable for our Piggy and so he's been having a fun time with his dotting grandparents, while we regularly have full on, 30 minute conversations about how much we miss him and what he really thinks about the change. One particularly heartbreaking theory I have come up during a self-induced worry session, is that I stole his father away after the wedding, which would absolutely kill me if Piggy really thought that! Hopefully he's too consumed with finding crumbs, flirting with the hard-to-get, English Bulldog neighbor and when his next home cooked cod dinner is. On that note, I hope you are all able to snap into a cozy situation more comfortably than me and keep sane during this frenzy of holiday crazy! If you haven't read my #HOLIDAZED post, I highly recommend. Anyone else excited for the third season of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?? 


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-MGN

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HOLIDAZED: MY HOLIDAY TO-DO LIST

It's truly Chrismakuh this year... As Hanukkah starts on December 22nd, I am over the moon excited to have a legitimate joining of my two favorite holidays, which Seth Cohen and I like to refer to as Chrismukkah. For me, this is a way to honor both sides of my family's heritage, but also a reminder that the holidays are actually very individualized for each person. I know for many of us the holidays center around our own religious beliefs, but for me, it's a time to honor the traditions from my childhood I most enjoyed, time with the people I love and celebrating life really. Having a holiday that so many of us participate in one way or another is essentially a way we join together, even if we have different reasons behind what we do. I believe it's one of the most unifying seasons in this country and the rest of the world. And to me that is so special and so exciting. Of course nothing is perfect, and I have written extensively about just that for many years now, but one of the main ways I deal with that is about attempting to really value how I spend my time and maintaining a consciousness around taking care of myself. 


Each year I try to find an evening in December to become a tourist again and walk around the famous Rodeo Drive because let's be honest, Beverly Hills just has to do everything bigger, brighter and better than you. And they do just that for the holiday season. With every glamorous storefront decorated beautifully and some of the prettiest lights and displays, I have to give credit where credit is due. My plan is to grab a hot cup of something from Ladurée in a cozy big, slightly unnecessary coat, and walk all over the downtown area. Some of my favorites from past years is the big red bow on Cartier, the done up staircase at 2 Rodeo Drive and of course the Santa sled that often hangs across Wilshire Blvd. It's a marvelous display of festiveness and I just can't get enough. After a brisk walk around I usually stop at Nate'n Al's Deli or head the Fountain Coffee Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel (also the home of the famed pink jacketed Nutcrackers). More about Rodeo Drive's Holiday Celebrations here




It's safe to say this event has become a staple in my annual holiday celebrations, where the tree lined storefronts host the community with sales and treats. For anyone not familiar, Montana Avenue is a nice little street with retail and restaurants in Santa Monica, a place I tend to frequent fairly often. What I love most about it is it's proximity to Brentwood, it's quiet, laid back vibe and of course, all the places I have come to love. Caffé Luxxe, Sweet Lady Jane and Forma, to name a few, which is where I usually make a reservation for the night of this event, so my friends and I can enjoy a delicious, cheese induced, pasta dinner after perusing the street for free cookies and mulled wine. To be clear, only one real estate agency tends serve the mulled wine, however most shops offer something for kids and of course, the adult still trying to grab complimentary sweets when possible. More info about the event here. 

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Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills & Christmas Tree Land in Pasadena

This is a perfect activity for little kids, given you won't have to leave your car. I found this lovely little drive through street, properly referred to as Candy Cane Lane, one year when my mother was visiting for the holidays. A friend of mine who grew up in LA had told us about it, a gathering of a few streets which according to my friend, residents are required to decorate their houses for the holiday, just to keep up with the standard set by the outwardly festive community. It's only a few streets but it's a nice little activity, especially if you live anywhere close to the 405 freeway and or live in the San Fernando Valley. So we grabbed some Starbucks and purchased homemade cookies being sold in support of a veteran's charity and rolled on through. More recently, a tour guide at the Huntington Gardens, another absolutely beautiful place I might add, told me about a similar drive in Pasadena. It's a pristine, deodar cedar tree lined street, perfectly lit for the holidays. I have not yet been, which is odd given I have spent every Christmas in California in Pasadena! So my recommendation of course is to pack the car with warm drinks and perhaps something sweet. Christmas music optional, but my pick would likely be a classic; *NSYNC's Home for Christmas


Beverly Hills Menorah Lighting at Two Rodeo Drive, December 29th 

Every year I try to attend this event as it makes me happy to see how welcoming the city of Beverly Hills is to the Jewish community that tends to make up a very significant portion of the population here and in the rest of Los Angeles. This year the ceremony is taking place at the end of Hanukkah, which is a bit disappointing, however I will likely still attend because it's such a beautiful celebration of perseverance. Usually there's a Rabbi who will lead the event and light the large menorah, reminding us of why we celebrate and the importance of traditions like these. I also can't remember a year in which there weren't delicious latkes given out, so that in itself is enough to look forward to! 



I have only been once, however, it was really fun. I had hot chocolate (that I might have added a little Bailey's to) and toured the zoo at night, fully decorated for the holidays and glowing. It was a really fun experience, even without children. I have to say Chicago's Zoo lights are a bit better, however, it's been a few years since I have been so perhaps that have stepped up their game? Definitely a must see with the little ones! 


Mason Jar Hot Cocoa Gifts


Every year I continue to give my interns and co-workers and sometimes friends these very simple DIY mason jar hot chocolate kits. They are extremely simple to make and so festive that I've stuck to the same recipe for the last seven years! You can also swap the hot cocoa mix for any type of baked good or non-perishable recipe. I typically start with a hefty layer of hot cocoa powder, then add mini marshmallows, chopped candy cane and top it off with chocolate chips or smaller pieces of chocolate if I can find them. I garnish the jar with a red or plaid ribbon and sometimes a cinnamon stick for extra flair. The tags are optional but tend to add a nice personalized touch, with space for a little message too. Here are items you will need to recreate, linked below. 





-MGN

HOLDAZED: HOW TO DEAL, SOME THOUGHTS

Because the holidays aren't always merry and bright... Beyond the mistletoe, classic movies, enticing treats, ornate decorations and overhaul of lofty expectations for happiness, altruism and gratitude, lies the not so jingle worthy reality that holidays can also be hectic, stressful, overindulgent, lonely and expensive. When our friends, families, partners, kids and coworkers can bombard us with unattractive small talk, uncomfortable political discussions, the overconsumption and ugliness of too much food and booze. Or when we are reminded of those who've passed or are no longer are in our lives in the way they used to be. Or the tendency to overlook or instigate the differences and separations between family members, being forced to face old wounds or stressful memories of the past. The simple reality is that a picture perfect holiday doesn't exist no matter what Instagram and the Bergdorf Goodman windows tell us. So today I'm offering a little room for us all to be real about the part of the holiday that hasn't always been so celebrated, but has always had a seat at the table. I originally wrote this post now three years ago and my intention every year since has been to write an updated version, but it seems like pretty much everything here still applies. So I tweeked a few things and added some new thoughts, but for the most part, these were the main themes I considered when thinking about the holiDAZE we can all easily fall into around this time. I write this post with a lot of honesty, empathy and of course, love. I hope some of it resonates with you. Enjoy. 

1. Mindfulness around the food and booze... but seriously, so hard. This, I believe is one of the most difficult things for me to maintain mindfulness about during the season of nonstop feasting, cheering, and nibbling on salt and sugar. If you are only planning to attend one celebration then by all means go all out and consolidate the cookie and alcohol combo hangover, but for those of us attending multiple holiday parties/events; it's a slippery slope. And let's be real, I often find the yummy cheese plate and festive sugar rimmed cocktail as a reward for doing 20 minutes straight of small talk with a girl named Sara who hates her boss and is considering a retreat in Bali, no offense to any Sara's out there or Bali retreats, I'd love to do one too at some point. It's just so tempting sometimes to calm our social anxiety with a lot of cake and wine. But at the end of the day I will often ask myself, is it worth the lull, the bulge, the lack of energy, the headache, the hangover? To be clear, I try to always ask myself these questions from a place of love and acceptance of my body, and not shame and resentment for my choices. I ask myself these questions to create consciousness around the way my body feels and my part in fostering the good, rather than attempting to scare myself skinny. I try sometimes to think of all the cocktail parties as a marathon, instead of a sprint, trying to think of other ways I can manage some of the temptation by nourishing myself maybe before I go to a party with foods that make me feel good, so I'm not starving and consuming large amounts of stuff that won't feel good the next day. It's not an easy task but before alternating between nonstop fasting and feasting for several months, it might be worth some consideration. Our bodies and minds are so incredibly impacted by what we feed it but I also want to enjoy myself and embrace the traditions that come with seasons. So the awareness is not so much a restriction as it is a point of consideration and care. 



2. Family comes first, but...  The holidays are also supposed to be enjoyable, so why do others have to dictate what that looks like exactly? I know, I know, this is hard one. But I really believe we need to stop apologizing for wanting more for ourselves, especially when it comes to our own happiness. If you don't enjoy seeing Aunt-oh how are you still single?- then don't. I understand people have commitments to see family for so many different and complex reasons, and sometimes it's just not feasible. I wonder, however, if is at all feasible to cut some of the guilt out and do what's best for yourself, your partner, or your kids in any small way (for example limiting the time with difficult family members or planning something separate and special for yourself or loved ones). Life is just too short and the holidays too special not to enjoy some or all of it the way you'd like. And if you can't avoid cousin-I'm so much better than you- than at least set some boundaries. Don't engage in the criticism or negativity, rise above what is essentially someone else's problem to the best of your ability. It's your holiday too, and if that means asking Uncle Fred to talk about something else other than Trump, that's okay. 

3. Can we just say no... Like the last thought but a tad easier sometimes with friends than with family. Saying no to "omg I haven't seen you in forever, let's do brunch", saying no to more than two secret Santa parties, saying no to the entire cookie making station, just take your snap of the cute holiday party invite and Instagram that custom hot chocolate making station and get the hell out. Saying no to whatever you don't want to go to and stop feeling bad about it. It's not selfishness, it's common sense. Remember, the holidays are about being happy, right? 

4. #Holiday on a budget...Let's face it, way easier said than done and I am no expert in managing finances. We all want that understated but ultra-luxe and on trend New Year's Eve dress, the substantial donation to our favorite charity, the extra pretty gift wrap option, the $70 ugly Christmas sweater (I wish I was kidding), that gift that makes our partner go wow! And with social media it's hard to re-wear the expensive ensemble and not be a tad jealous about what model Range Rover kid car the Joneses' got Timmy. It's the thought that counts and I'll admit that it is sometimes very difficult for me to understand that fully. So in the spirit of supporting the opportunity and meaning behind giving this season, making a budget for everything involved, not just the gifts and donations, but the real cost of each event, the holiday cards, the last minute/overpriced bottle of champs, the beauty regimens, the Uber surge pricing, the outfits, the secret Santa gifts you forgot about until the night before, and all the little extra details that add up, aka the $8 ornate, but oh so convenient  wine gift bag nobody will ever use again. Of all the holiday hangovers, getting a terribly huge credit card bill in January will never be worth it, so instead of putting it off, plan ahead and try your best to stay as close as possible to an amount you know you will be comfortable with come the new year. 



5. Don't just do it for gram...I know, I know, I'm a TOTAL hypocrite. But I do constantly tell myself this all the time and for the most part it reminds me why I gather and plan before the gram (haha that wasn't meant to rhyme but I like it). Remember that you can Insta at anytime and often it's the photos we don't post that make us look cooler. If you're having a good time, the photo can wait, if it has to happen at all. Heather Dubrow said on her podcast that she only takes photos at the beginning of an event so she can enjoy the rest of her time without worrying about it. Clearly she isn't a blogger, but I think the principle still applies. Some of the best photos I have taken required the most work and stress. I am clearly still thinking hard about this one but I try to avoid any spontaneous photoshoots so that I can truly enjoy the night without worrying about missing the good light. 

6. Exercise, exercise, exercise... A general rule of thumb that's been particularly useful for me in this last year. If I can't make time to relieve the stress, then I don't make it. AKA if I know I'm going to be in a frenzy going to three events in one week and won't have time to recover (aka workout or relax a night or two in between) then I just don't go. Its kind of like putting gas in the car, if you are constantly on empty you won't be able to get very far! I also have listened to my body and it just does better when I get a work-out in. Even if you don't have a lot of time, doing something as simple as jumping jacks at home before getting in the shower can make a difference in how you feel. I will often move through a few yoga poses just to release some of the tension from the day before an event in the evening, since I tend to work out in the mornings and need more blood flow to get me pumped up. Every little bit counts and remember it's about how you feel that is the most important. 



7. Honoring those who've passed... Perhaps one of the hardest parts about the holiday is being reminded of those who we have lost, those who played significant roles in our celebrations in past years and remind us of how much we miss them or the relationship even if the rest of the year is more bearable. As a therapist I often encourage my clients to acknowledge the loss in the safest and most bearable way possible. This can vary from reading a poem or quote, playing a particular game, sharing a fond memory, eating a special food, visiting a grave site or special place they used to love. Often times allowing a welcomed space, that may come with some sadness and difficult memories, feels better in the long run then avoiding the loss entirely. One of the most beautiful things about the seasons is the comfort of the old but also to opportunity of the new. It's up to us which one we choose to listen to most. This also applies to non death related loss too. Perhaps we are mourning a separation, ours or our parents. It could be a significant life change, moving to a new place, a financial situation, loss of status or a job. There are so many types of losses in life, however, there's also so many different ways to embrace change. Whatever path you are on, I hope you can conjure some trust in your process. That loss can evolve beyond just sadness, and perhaps add something to your life at some point. I know it's so hard, but if it means anything, I truly believe in it already for you. 

8. It's okay to be sad... As a matter of fact, maybe we can even plan for it, just a little. Like I mentioned before, as much as the holidays are fun and filled with happy memories, they are also stressful and emotionally draining. We tend to know ourselves well enough to sense when we might have an extra hard time putting up with a parent who might not change, a recent breakup, or a change in life circumstance beyond our control. And when everyone is forcing cheerfulness and gratitude down your throat it can often leave us feeling extra sensitive to the things we don't have, or did and lost. It's never a bad idea to have a little plan in place for these days — maybe promising yourself no guilt in saying no to a party invitation, or treating yourself to a massage/movie/SoulCycle class, having a friend on speed dial who is comfortable with just listening or watching a re-run of Friends. We all have things that make us hurt and often times the stress or pressure that comes with this season brings it up a little more for us, and for what it's worth, I'm here to tell you that is so okay. Congratulations, you're a real human. 

-MGN