All Lit Up

Christmas Vacation house

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One of my favorite scenes from Christmas Vacation is when Clark Griswold covers his entire house in Christmas lights. When he brings out his family to witness the lighting of the house, it’s a pretty spectacular moment. As you can see, the Griswold definitely wins for brightest, most festive house in their neighborhood. Inspired by this hilarious scene, these are some decorative houses that just might give the Griswold’s a run for their money.

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Holiday Cheer

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1. Onion Basket $30 | 2.  A Story Lately Told $17 | 3. Wishbone Bottle Opener $14 | 4. Robinson Nutcracker $95 | 5. Game of Thrones: The First Season $30

This year, give special items that are both functional and entertaining. This onion/fruit basket would be super useful and look great in any kitchen. Do your friends keep telling you they want to start watching Game of Thrones? Get them the complete first season on DVD – maybe they’ll even let you watch with them. You can never go wrong with gifting a book, especially when it’s a memoir. Anjelica Huston’s recently released A Story Told Lately is a fascinating read. You don’t have to spend too much to spread holiday cheer and make someone’s holidays even sparklier.

How are you going to spread holiday cheer?

Eat & Watch: Christmas Fettuccine Alfredo & The Holiday

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If you are not ready to say goodbye to Christmas just yet, enjoy a little Fettuccine Alfredo with a wonderful romantic comedy. While watching The Holiday, one of the best modern Christmas movies (in my opinion), Kate Winslet’s character, Iris, tells Jack Black’s character, Miles, that she will make him some ‘Christmas Fettuccine’ to lift their low spirits due to relationship problems. This pasta dish makes an appearance in the scene with Cameron Diaz’s character, Amanda, when she settles in for the night.

I made some of this delicious Fettuccine Alfredo, but since the color palette of the dish is predominantly yellow, the pictures were a little boring. To spare you from the dull sight, I chose not to feature the step-by-step for this Eat & Watch. Also, the recipe is pretty basic: make pasta, add the cream/butter/cheese sauce. Fettuccine and The Holiday are delicious and welcomed additions for cold winter nights.

Fettuccine Alfredo

[Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis]

Ingredients

• 18 ounces fresh fettuccine
• 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
• 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (I cut my use of butter in half)
• 2 cups grated Parmesan
• 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
• Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
• Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Directions

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Drain.

2. Stir 2 cups of the cream and the lemon juice in a heavy large skillet to blend.

3. Add the butter and cook over medium heat just until the butter melts, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

4. Add the pasta and toss. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of cream, and Parmesan to the cream sauce in the skillet.

5. Add the lemon zest, nutmeg, salt, and white pepper. Toss the pasta mixture over low heat until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

{Photo from The Holiday}

6 Things to Do Over Winter Break

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To be honest, I get a little bit restless during my holiday break. It’s weird not having a schedule or routine, or having assigned busy work. To fill the hours of the long cold days, here are some fun ideas for a long weekend or month-long break (enjoy it, undergrads!)…

1. Start that neglected television marathon. While you may have been keeping up with shows during the fall semester, there was never a good time to start a full-on marathon with shows such as Homeland, Downton Abbey, or Dexter. However, now that you have a couple of free weeks, this would be a good time to start those shows!

2. Take a trip to the movie theater. There are some incredible movies coming out this winter. I personally can’t wait for Les Miserables, This is 40, Django Unchained, Promised Land, and $ellebrity.

3. Read an unassigned book. This winter I am looking forward to reading Anna Karenina (and then I’ll watch the movie), Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia, The Kitchen House, and The Night Circus.

4. Try a new recipe. Hone those baking skills this winter, or try a challenging recipe that has intimidated you for months.

5. Plan a movie night. Whip up your favorite cookies and drinks, pop in a movie, and enjoy a comfortable night with friends or family.

6. Make your own movie. With apps such as 8mm Vintage Camera, iMovie for iPhone, and Paper Camera, you can document your winter activities without breaking the bank!

Have a very Merry Christmas tomorrow!  

{Photo via}

That’s a Wrap!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend before Christmas! If you are in need of any last-minute gift ideas, check out my Film and Food Gift Guide.  Here is a wrap-up from the week…

• Movies this week: 10 Years, The King’s Speech, Young Adult, Home Alone, The Holiday, The Bourne Legacy.

• Crunchy crabs at an Asian speciality supermarket.

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Elf the Musical this weekend – just in time for Christmas!

• I spy an awesome popcorn maker at Williams-Sonoma.

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• Made a batch of these chocolate chip cookies - they are honestly the best homemade cookies ever.

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{Photos by Lauren}

Eat & Watch: Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes & the Nutcracker

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing the Nutcracker, a stunning ballet that is perfect for the holidays. In honor of the show, I made Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes in an adorable Nutcracker Cupcake Set (on sale!). I wanted to do a nut recipe for obvious reasons, and these cupcakes (which are more like brownies in a cup) have a great flavor and texture due to the brownie mix and walnuts. Instead of the cream cheese frosting, I made my own chocolate frosting and sprinkled mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and finely chopped walnuts on top.

If you don’t want to brave the cold to see the Nutcracker this season, add the movie-version, Nutcracker (1986), to your list of ‘Christmas Movies to Watch.’ While it might not compare to seeing the show live, you can watch it while wearing your pajamas and stuffing your face with cupcakes. Whether you see the live show or movie, you can’t go wrong!

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Chocolate Chip Walnut Cupcakes

(Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis)

Cupcakes:
• 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
• 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
• 1 (21-ounce) box brownie mix (recommended: Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge)
• 2 eggs, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1/4 cup water

Directions:

* Special equipment: 12 paper cupcake liners, a 12-cup muffin pan.
* For the cupcakes: Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

1. In a small bowl combine the walnuts, 1 cup mini chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of the brownie mix. Toss until all the ingredients are coated. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl mix together the remaining brownie mix, eggs, vegetable oil, and water. Stir for 20 seconds until blended.

3. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips.

4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan (cupcake liners will be full). Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the cupcakes comes out with moist fudgy crumbs.

5. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting, about 30 minutes.

Chocolate Frosting:
(Recipe courtesy Cathy Lowe)
• 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
• 1 stick butter, softened
• 3 – 4 tablespoons heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
1. Sift sugar and cocoa together into a large bowl.
2. In another bowl combine 1 cup of sugar mixture with butter and 1 tablespoon cream, beating until smooth.
3. Add another cup of sugar and another tablespoon of cream, beating well.
4. Continue until all ingredients are combined and frosting is fluffy. Beat in vanilla.
5. Spread frosting on cupcakes when cool.

Enjoy!

{Photos by Lauren}

Holiday Movie Soundtrack Favorites

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As promised, here is my ‘Holiday Movie Soundtrack Favorites’ playlist! These are all songs from some of my favorite holiday movies, and every time I hear them I am brought back to a particular scene or moment. These are also the movies I will be watching this winter – one every night in an eager countdown to Christmas. There are a lot of amazing holiday songs available, but these are the ones that are getting the most repeats as of late.

A Dash of Cinema’s Holiday Movie Soundtrack Favorites:

1. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee {The Holiday}
2. This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) – Natalie Cole {While You Were Sleeping}
3. Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt {Mixed Nuts}
4. Baby, It’s Cold Outside - Zooey Deschanel {Elf}
5. Sleigh Ride - Ella Fitzgerald {Elf}
6. White Christmas - Otis Redding {Love Actually}
7. Silver Bells - Kate Smith {The Polar Express}
8. Christmas All Over Again - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers {Four Christmases}
9. Right Back Where We Started From - Maxine Nightingale {The Family Stone}
10. A Kiss to Build a Dream On - Louis Armstrong {Sleepless in Seattle}
11. A Wink and A Smile - Harry Connick, Jr. {Sleepless in Seattle}

What songs are you listening to this holiday season?

For another playlist, check out the ‘Fall Movie Soundtrack Favorites!’

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In the Spotlight: Buddy the Elf

Buddy the Elf, played by the hilarious Will Ferrell, is the beloved character from the movie Elf (2003),which tells the tale of Buddy leaving the North Pole to search for his true identity. Enter: New York City, the place where you can find yourself and dreams come true. On the journey of finding his real father, Buddy experiences the ‘real world’ and the adventures of a lifetime.

Bringing laughter and happiness everywhere he goes, Buddy is a sweet, innocent, and cheerful ‘elf’ who just wants to be loved. Elf is one of the funniest Christmas movies out there, and it never gets old no matter what time of year you watch it. Directed by Jon Favreau, who is responsible for Iron Man (1 and 2) and Cowboys and Aliens, this movie is perfect for both kids and adults. A blonde Zooey Deschanel plays the role of Buddy’s girlfriend and she is almost unrecognizable with her bleached locks.

Whether you are watching the movie or seeing the musical (yes, there is an Elf the Musical!), this movie is easily a holiday favorite. If you want to laugh, check it out.

World’s Best Cup of Coffee:

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Movie Bites: Peppermint Hot Chocolate

During the holidays, my typical go-to drink is peppermint hot chocolate. Starbucks has a delicious version, especially when served in the red cups. However, when I can’t make it to a coffee shop or it’s late at night and I want to pop in a movie and have something warm to sip on, this recipe (below) is a great alternative. If you don’t like your cocoa too chocolate-y, simply add more milk. You can play around with this recipe since it is only milk, chocolate, and peppermint. Not terribly complex but a good know-how, nonetheless. Enjoy!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:
· 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
· 6 cups of milk (any kind)
· 1/2 semi-sweet chocolate chips

· 6 peppermint sticks; 3 crushed, 3 for stirring
· 1 pinch of salt

Instructions:
1. Add milk in saucepan over low to medium heat – you don’t want to have the heat too high and risk burning the milk
2. Add the unsweetened cocoa powder to the warm milk and whisk until dissolved
3. Add semi-sweet chocolate chips and crushed peppermint to the saucepan
4. Stir and let heat for 10 minutes over medium heat
5. Serve with marshmallows, whipped cream, and a peppermint stick

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{Photos by Lauren}