Nashville Exploring + the Warmest Winter EVER with Brooklyn Bicycle Co.

Nashville Exploring + the Warmest Winter EVER with Brooklyn Bicycle Co. - offbeat + inspired

Back home, I always considered “the north” to be EXTREME north. Basically the Canadian border. It’s lake-effect snow, sub-zero winters, local skiing, maple syrup fresh from the tree and basically any scene from Fargo. Living in Nashville, I’m learning that “the north” means anything upwards of Tennessee, where it’s not uncommon to cut down your Christmas tree in a t-shirt. And I’m kinda torn.

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Campfires, Cocoa + Minnetonkas

Campfires, Cocoa + Minnetonkas - offbeat + inspired

This is definitely one of my favorite combinations in the world…campfires, the outdoors, hot chocolate, cozy clothes, sunsets and good friends. Simple, magical, and getting to feel adventurous right in the backyard. This was such a welcome retreat from the craziness that is November/December. The holidays seriously snuck up on me this year! I’ve been so busy settling into Nashville that when I finally came up for air, it was Thanksgiving week! And now Christmas is right around the corner. It’s ok though, campfires like this one will be my reality check - all is right with the world when you’ve got sweet ones to share life with and a good pair of shoes.

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Eggnog “White Russians”

Eggnog "White Russians" - offbeat + inspired

Winter cocktails are my favorite. They’re so cozy and rich! The thought of a cold glass of milk punch or eggnog makes me want to gather all the ugly sweaters I can, make one giant super sweater and climb into it with all my friends while we watch cheesy holiday movies and get warm by the fire. Yes, I’m weird, but you have to admit that sounds pretty amazing.

I’ve never actually crafted my OWN winter cocktail though, so this year I wanted to try a twist on the White Russian. I love the “grown up chocolate milk” aspect of this drink, so I stuck with that and changed it up a little bit by using eggnog instead of cream. It’s such an easy alteration, but the results are SO good. Hangar 1 Vodka with its authentically fresh, clean flavor pulls the whole thing together and gives it a perfect kick.

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Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies

Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies-6

Ever cook something for the first time and then wonder, “Why in the world haven’t I been making this all along!?” That’s how I feel about shortbread. For some reason, I’ve never made shortbread cookies until this year - but now, I’m completely hooked. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve quickly baked (and eaten) enough of these buttery, sweet, crumbly cookies to make up for all the years they’ve been missing from my kitchen.

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Coffee + Maple Spiced Nuts

Coffee + Maple Spiced Nuts - offbeat + inspired-2

In our house, we always have a dish of mixed nuts set out. I guess I figure that if I have that out as a snack, I’ll be less likely to head towards the pantry for a handful of chocolate chips. (Although, truth be told, it doesn’t always work.)

In anticipation of the holidays, I opted to spice (and sweeten) things up a bit. These mixed nuts are sweetened with maple syrup and tossed with a few of my favorite fall spices. Of course, I add coffee to pretty much anything I can, so there’s also a hint of freshly ground coffee that takes the flavor to the next level.

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Life + Waffles

Pumpkin Spice Belgian Waffles + Toasted Pecans - offbeat + inspired

Life happens in phases. They can be marked by jobs, boyfriends, schools, hair colors, diets — anything and everything. I was recently reflecting on my own phases, and noticed that no matter how chaotic or calm, easy or hard, routine or ridiculous a time in my life was, there was always a constant. I could chronologically organize my phases according to what I was baking.

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An Orchard Brunch with Poppy Barley

An Orchard Brunch with Poppy Barley - offbeat + inspired

I met the Poppy Barley team on a trip to Edmonton about 6 months ago. Edmonton is a sweet little city in Alberta, and I was there to experience the culture and creative community for a weekend (see the highlight video here!). When I toured the Poppy Barley studio, I fell in love instantly. PB makes extremely high quality, custom-fitted leather footwear. I went for a fitting while I was in town, and about 6 weeks later I received my beautiful boots in the mail. I’ve never worn a more comfortable pair. It was unbelievable. I wrote them an e-mail to rave a bit, and that’s when the idea of hosting a Poppy Barley gathering here in Lexington was born. I wanted to share about this wonderful company with a small group of girls, and suddenly the vision of a rustic barn wood table covered in pastries and breakfast treats, surrounded by vibrant apple trees came into focus.

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Cardamom Hot Chocolate + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

Cardamom Hot Chocolate - offbeat + inspired 1

I remember when we had a snow day as a kid, my brother and I would head out to the backyard and sled down the hill behind our house for hours on end. When our fingers were finally numb and our clothes soaked through, we’d tromp through the garage and down into the basement to throw our jackets, gloves and hats into the dryer. Then we were off to our rooms to change into cozy sweatpants while Mom whipped up hot chocolate and built a fire. Snow days were seriously the best.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes

Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes - offbeat + inspired

This is the first Christmas that my entire immediate family is in Kentucky. My mom drove out from New Jersey 2 days ago and it’s been a whirlwind of excitement since she got here. We want her to see everything. We’ve had lunch at Windy Corner, cookies at National Boulangerie, coffee at the Starbucks downtown (because Mom loves her Starbucks), had a visit to my youngest sister and her husband’s new apartment for the first time, ate dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill and saw The Hobbit. That was just yesterday.

This morning, groggy and hungry, I texted my sisters to join my mom and I in my room so we could chat and plan the day. After the inevitable silly-ness that happens when the sisters and mom are together, the much anticipated topic of breakfast came up. It was quickly decided that I would make pancakes, and pancakes I made. Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes.

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Maple, Banana + Pecan Muffins

Maple, Banana + Pecan Muffins 7 - offbeat + inspired

I’ve mentioned before that I typically don’t bake very often, but lately the tables have turned. This holiday season has stirred up for me a new love for creating fresh breads (some which morphed into this), cookies, scones, cakes and now muffins.

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