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How Amanda & Merrill are Prepping for the Holidays

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To our friends, readers, and fellow holiday cheerers,

Everyone's been there: You plow through the holidays heads-down, and when you finally lift your head to enjoy them, you realize they're over. Well, not this year! Below we're sharing 11 things we're doing right now to get in the holiday spirit. And we hope your holidays are full of joy, great food, a little relaxation, and lots of time with family and friends.

Amanda & Merrill

Photo by James Ransom


  • My 3-year-old daughter Clara is learning about the different herbs we have growing in our planter at home, so I'm thinking these DIY herb napkin rings will be a fun project for us to do together.

  • Faced with the challenge of coming up with a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free snack for Clara's class, I'm betting on kettle corn, which is all of those things.

Kettle Corn

Kettle Corn

Kenzi Wilbur Kenzi Wilbur
Go To Recipe
Serves 4 to 6
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil (like vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
Go to Recipe
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  • In an attempt to expand my music horizons, I've been trolling Spotify and I'm really liking this Birth of Cool playlist. Hoping this means I'll be cool by association.

  • I'm having a really hard time deciding which of our new holiday wreaths to hang on our door. And don't get me started on the garlands...

Cedar & Eucalyptus Wreath with Burlap Ribbon

Cedar & Eucalyptus Wreath with Burlap Ribbon

Magnolia Wreath

Magnolia Wreath

  • Molly Wizenberg wrote about my applesauce cake, which I make a lot this time of year. She made it with dark brown sugar instead of light, and in a brilliant move she used Judy Rodgers' roasted applesauce. Think it's time for a re-test.

  • Spoiler alert: I'm stocking up on the Marfa candle by Hawkins NY, which smells like a campfire in the best way, so I can give it to pretty much everyone I know.

Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze

Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze

Merrill Stubbs Merrill Stubbs
Go To Recipe
Serves 10

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened (preferably homemade) applesauce
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel glaze

  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
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  • I'm planning to make the Honey Cashew Morning Buns with my 9-year-old twins, Walker and Addison. They love shaping dough, plus you can never have too many morning buns.

  • To balance all the blogs I read, I'm hoping to borrow Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels from my husband, for some restorative holiday down time—which may or may not happen until 2016.

Honey Cashew Morning Buns

Honey Cashew Morning Buns

Joanne Chang Joanne Chang
Go To Recipe
Makes 12 buns

For the bun dough:

  • 240 grams (1 cup) water, at body temperature (when you put your finger in it, it should feel neither cold nor hot)
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast or 3 grams (0.1 ounces) fresh cake yeast
  • 350 grams (2 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus up to about 35 grams (1/4 cup) more, if needed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) olive oil or mild vegetable oil

For the honey goo and the bun filling:

  • Honey Goo
  • 115 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 170 grams (1/2 cup) honey
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) heavy cream
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Bun Filling
  • 240 grams (2 cups) raw unsalted cashews, chopped
  • 115 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
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  • This year's stocking stuffers for my friends and family will be Onyx ice packs and lavender linen sachets—two things people don't buy for themselves but are happy to have.

  • I like to have an "add-on gift" that I can pair with other gifts: This year's add-on is the Spicy Maple Syrup, because everyone in the world needs to experience its deliciousness. (And I'm going to order a few extra for the family members you didn't expect to see and suddenly need a gift for. )

Spicy Maple Syrup

Spicy Maple Syrup

Organic Lavender Linen Sachets (Set of 2)

Organic Lavender Linen Sachets (Set of 2)

  • And while baking and wrapping gifts, I'll catch up on some of my favorite podcasts:

What are you planning for holidays? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: Entertaining, Holiday Entertaining