The year end always comes as such a shock to me. You would think after 23 years it wouldn't, but it still does. I just can't wrap my head around the idea that 2011 is over, but in the same thought, I am grateful. I am SO ready for 2012!

Looking back on the year, one of the things I am most grateful for is all of you. I have always done blogging "for me," but it is all of you who make it worthwhile. It's like thinking you find a dollar, but really its a hundred dollars (you know, you think your getting one thing, but really, you get a whole lot more...) I am grateful for all of you that read the blog, that follow, who comment, and who have even become friends! I really cannot put into words just how thankful I am for all of you. You really made 2011 great for me.

As we go into the new year, I wish each and every one of you a very happy and healthy new year. May you all be safe, and surrounded by the ones you love, and may 2012 bring nothing but happiness to you.

I love you all,
Alyssa xo 

Merry Christmas


I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! 
May you enjoy the time with your family and friends,
and remember the reason for the season. 
Happy Holidays everyone!!



The amount of chocolate around right now is obscene.  Everything I have been baking in the last few days has called for some variety of chocolate: bittersweet, semisweet, unsweetened, the list goes on and on. The number one thing on my to make list for the holidays were some chocolate truffles. One thing I didn't know about truffles (like 85% of the things I set out to make), are how easy they are to make! They only require two ingredients: heavy cream and chocolate chips. That's. It.

I used a combination of recipes (this one, one from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, and this YouTube vid) and my own little touches. For example, I added a pinch of salt to the chocolate as it was melting, (to enhance the chocolate flavor) and I made a batch of truffles with a very special ingredient: Kahlúa. Mind you, in the process of making the truffles, I can't remember which ones are made with the Kahlúa and which ones aren't. Whoops!  But at least its a pleasant surprise and not like a nail or something....)

Gaga's Workshop


Oh, Lady Gaga. Your antics and wardrobe choices often drive me insane, but nothing can deny the fact that you are incredibly talented, generous, funny, and creative. Since Barney's announced the collaboration with Lady Gaga, I just knew Gaga's Workshop would be the holiday attraction.

The workshop in Barney's was a very creative and elaborate space, filled with lots of Gaga-esque art pieces and (expensive, but for a good cause) merchandise. It was the windows however, that I completely loved; they were on a whole other level. The combination of art, music, and of course fashion, were done so well, and in true Gaga fashion, that no matter who passed by, fan or not, it was sure to bring on the "oohs and the ahhs."

Gaga's Crystal Cave
Gaga's Boudoir, made of real blond hair.
Gaga Machine



I have been wanting to go to Ladurée since they opened in August. You see, the first time I had a macaron (I think) was over the summer in St. Martin. The thing is, by the time I got around to eating them, they had been in my bag for a few hours, and were a bit crumbled, and not so delicious. I figured if I was going to give macarons a proper second try, I had to go to Laduree.

To celebrate the end of finals yesterday, Gabriella and I decided to take a trip uptown to Ladurée. I read online that the wait was about 15 to 20 minutes, and figured we would be in and out. Wrong! We were on line for a total of 2 hours! I guess neither of us took into consideration that it was not just the holidays, but the first day of Hanukkah. Ladurée made the wait worth it as they came out not once, but twice, with macaron samples. It was divine. Literally. I'm certain I had an out of body experience after sampling the chocolate macaron. I think its what the angels in heaven eat for a snack. Yeah, it was amazing. 

My "starter" pack: pistachio, chocolate, dark chocolate, vanilla, cassis and coconut 

I came to the conclusion, that I do in fact like macarons, but only certain flavors. Ladurée will definitely be a treat every now and then, especially as I dream of and plan a future trip to Paris... 

Festive in the City


I absolutely cannot believe Christmas is less than a week away! Since I had a final bright and early at 8am this morning (which I finished in a record 5 minutes), I decided I would head into the city after, to get a move on my holiday shopping. 

While I was HIGHLY unsuccessful on the shopping front, everything and everyone in such festive moods, made the trip worth it all. As I was browsing the holiday market, this guy walking out the Union Square train station said it best : "There's no place like New York during Christmas." I couldn't agree more. 

DIY Vanilla Extract


With the holiday season just around the corner in full swing, I noticed quite a few recipes pop up for homemade vanilla extract. While I thought it was a great idea, I didn't give it too much thought since I  had no idea where I would even get vanilla beans.

On one of my daily trips to Trader Joe's last week, I did my usual stroll of each aisle to see what new items were in. There, in the baking aisle, in mass abundance, were vanilla beans! It took everything in me not to add them all to my cart, (like in that Snickers commercial) but did purchase enough to make some extract.
2 vanilla beans for $3.99 at Trader Joe's
Making the extract couldn't be simpler. Split vanilla beans lengthwise, throw them in a jar, add vodka and voila! Its the waiting 6-8 weeks for the final product that is the hard part. Which will be perfect because if the winter is going to be as bad as they say, I will have fresh vanilla extract for cakes and cookies while snowed in...
I used 3 vanilla beans per 8oz of vodka. It looks like more because some are cut in half. 
In keeping in line with DIYgift ideas, try this vanilla extract for your (patient) baking/cooking enthusiast. A little ribbon, and a fancy bag and your good to go. 'Tis the season!

DIY Gift Ideas


After taking a look at the calendar (LOLZ Christmas is like tomorrow,) I figured it was about time I get a move on with my Christmas shopping. For some reason this year, I have been a little stumped, but browsing Pinterest gave me an idea: why not DIY? 

In my browsing, I came across some really awesome DIY idea's and just had to share them with you all. Besides being totally awesome, the majority of them are under $25 and can be finished in time for Christmas!
1. An Anthropologie-esque necklace is one chic statement piece; they won't believe its handmade!

2.  Make and personalize this leather journal for anyone on your list.

3. This license plate key holder is great to remember that first car or a flea market/travel find.

4. These monogrammed hand towels are super luxe, at a fraction of the cost.

5. This sunburst mirror looks straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog. Can you believe its just popsicle sticks?

6. Don't just give the same old tie, give one that's personalized

7. Map coasters are a great reminder of that last trip or hometown.

8. Some thumbtacks, canvas, and paint create a one of a kind wall hanging of their favorite quote or saying. 
(Another great alternative is this DIY from ..Love Maegan)

And because I can't leave out the kiddies:
Fabric paint or an iron on applique on a onesie or tee shirt, make a one of a kind gift they'll always want to wear. 

For more DIY's check out Martha Stewart and Pinterest

My Holiday Playlist


Nothing gets me into the holiday spirit quite like some season appropriate music. 

While I may lead you to believe that I only listen to A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, I do in fact listen to and enjoy other holiday songs. (No, that one is still not included on the list).

Here are 12 of my favorite holiday songs, to kick off the 12 days before Christmas (Well, Christmas Eve)!

Andy Williams

Kaskade and Late Night Alumni

The Enchanters

Frank Sinatra

Jose Feliciano

Dominick the Donkey
Lou Monte

The Christmas Song
Nat King Cole

Bing Crosby

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time
Paul McCartney


*available for free download via soundcloud

What are your favorite Holiday songs? 

All I Want For Christmas this Year is...


Caramel Popcorn


One thing I love this time of year are those massive popcorn tins, and their variety of flavors. Since I couldn't wait until this weekend to pick up a tin from Trader Joe's, (they have one for $9.99!) I decided to make some caramel popcorn last night. I then ate it for dinner, after dinner, before bed...

I used this recipe in particular, because it uses no corn syrup. I also put the popcorn in the pot with the caramel, as opposed to pouring it over the popcorn, to mix it up. Pouring the caramel over the popcorn sounded like a visit to the ER and I wanted to avoid that. 

Lastly, I placed the popcorn on a baking sheet, and in the oven for about 5 minutes at 175 degrees. The outcome was a perfectly crunchy caramel popcorn. 
after the popcorn cooled, I mixed it with an equal amount of plain popcorn so it wasn't such a sugar rush.
My outcome will be a nice long nap as I come off this sugar high...

A Year in Provence


Right before Borders closed in September, on my last trip I picked up two books: The Sweet Life in Paris, and A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. After sitting on my shelf for a few months, I finally got around to reading A Year in Provence last week, and finished it over the weekend.

I won't get into too much detail about it for those of you who haven't read it and wish to, but it was one of the best books I have read in awhile. Peter Mayle is a FANTASTIC writer, and I felt that I was right there in Provence, learning and experiencing everything with him. The one thing I really wish I could have enjoyed was all the delicious food he mentions! It all sounded delish.
Overlooking a vineyard in Provence. The wine was the most delicious wine I ever consumed.
As I read about all of Peter Mayle's adventures during his move to Provence, all I could think was "I wish I could do that." I'm not sure I could move somewhere permanently, but I think a temporary relocation abroad would be one of those amazing, once in a lifetime things that you just never, ever forget.

I think the greatest thing, besides being abroad, would be the chance to really be immersed in the culture and to "live like a local." From learning the culture, the language, and of course all about the food, it would be a great chance to do all those things you wish to as a tourist, but just don't have the time for on a typical visit. 

Have you ever thought of what it would be like to move to another country? Where did you have in mind and of course, what would you do while you were there?

Le Weekend


Ah, Monday. Even though today and this week will be a drag, I only have ONE week of classes left. Boy, am I glad for that! I'm also glad that in between stuffing my face, I got all of my assignments for the end of the semester done over Thanksgiving break. Nothing beats having a stress-free and relaxing weekend. 

My little glitter Christmas tree from Trader Joe's, 
A shopper on my trip to BJ's, who not just sang, but danced downed the aisle to a Jessica Simpson Christmas song.
A taste of New England: Lobster Rolls made from scratch and BBQ chips from Trader Joe's (so. good)
Marry You: the only song I like from Bruno Mars, which I actually heard first on Glee.
Finished A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, a must read for the travel lovers/Francophiles. 
Sunday Funday: Tea and the New York Times. A Sunday tradition.

One thing I noticed this weekend was how truly excited I am for the holidays. Is it possible for someone to love and loathe the holidays at the same time? That's been me in the past years, but for some reason, this year feels different. I can't wait to share my 12 days till Christmas posts with you next week! 

How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun for the first holiday weekend?

My friend Gabriella


Everyone, say hello to my absolutely FABULOUS friend Gabriella. Gab and I go to school together and met last year in an awfully boring Philosophy class. From day one, I was kind of obsessed with her style; in a sea of sweats and slop, Gab's style stood out for being super chic, while also being laid back and school appropriate.

As we had more classes together, we got to become friends and realize we had quite a bit in common: a love of fashion, shopping, ASOS, and Blake Lively, amongst other things.

To pick just any one thing that I love about Gabriella's style is extremely difficult. So I will share my top three:
1. Splurge v. Save: 
Some of Gabriella's favorite stores to shop are ASOS, H&M, and Century 21, further proving looking great, doesn't have to mean sacrificing quality or breaking the bank. Which leads into the splurge...

2. Investment Pieces:  From a statement watch to a fabulous Chanel handbag, Gabriella invests in the classic, timeless pieces that, take her from season to season. 
(FYI: Her handbag collection makes me sick, especially her navy Balenciaga. Amaze.)

3. Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize!: Whether its a great scarf or a stack of bracelets, those little touches make an already perfect look, absolute perfection. 
[Top to bottom, L-R] Gab finishes off a simple day look for shopping, with a classic Chanel handbag. 
A gold statement watch serves as fashion and function.
 A classic coat and a chunky knit infinity scarf are paired with the season's best accessory: a Starbuck's red cup.

So there you have it! Up there with Alex Curran, and Hilary Duff, is my friend Gabriella, one of my style inspirations. Show Gab some love (or else...just kidding) and have a fantastic first weekend of the holiday season! 

Getting into the holiday swing of things...


The tree at Rockefeller Center is lit, and it is December 1st! I am officially allowing myself to get into the holiday spirit and fully embracing holiday decorations, movies, red cups, and music. What I will never embrace is this song. God help me and you if I have to hear that song.


I bought this sweater back in September awhile ago when the Gap was having a 40% off sale. I had fallen in love with a similar one in July from H&M (right before vacation), but I couldn't justify buying a sweater in the summer. Plus, the Gap one is MUCH nicer. 

I was obviously attracted to the sparkle, but in the back of my mind, I just knew it would be perfect for the holidays. I felt crazy buying such an item so early, but since it was on sale, and depleting in stock quickly, I bought it and kept it hidden until now. 
Even Ke$ha's jeal
I really can't wait for Christmas. For starters, other than Fleet Week and Fashion Week, Christmastime is one of the few times NYC is bearable for me, and that I actually enjoy being here. Add in time with family and friends, and loads of merriment, and you have my absolute favorite holiday.

So here's to enjoying all the most wonderful time of the year has to offer!