Oh Friday. Thank goodness you’re here. I woke up last Sunday with a terrible sore throat and have continued to rock a cold and mild flu all week long. I think this is my body’s way of telling me that it’s 100% necessary for me to take the next week to sleep, spend lots of time on Netflix and Hulu, and drink hot cocoa like it’s my job. So excuse me while I go do just that.

Sarah and I will be back later next week sharing our best reads of 2012. I read some amazing books this year so I’m really excited to dish on that topic- but I’m just as excited to hear from you guys and get lots of reading recommendations for 2013! So be sure to drop in for that. Beyond that, here are a few thing for you to cook, do, listen to, and read over the holiday:

  • Entertaining? You really totally need to host this holiday bagel brunch.
  • Did you know CC has it’s very own holiday playlist? Get it here. Mariah and Frank Sinatra all the way.
  • This particular Biz Notes post was one of my favorites. It’s a really good read- wherever you are in your life.
  • Ina Garten tasted and loved (!) these ginger cookies– I think that’s good enough reason for you to make them.
  • Lessons in blogging- here are my big ones from 2012.
  • Still shopping for gifts- we made three awesome gift guides for you this year. Get 12, and 3!
  • Enough with the cookies and candy canes- you totally need this holiday kale salad in your life.
  • I’ll be making a gingerbread house this weekend! Got any tips or tricks?

However you’re celebrating, I hope your holiday is filled with great food, family, and friends. Thanks so much for all your support this year and making my little corner of the web part of your daily life. It means more to me than you can imagine!

xo Clara

Image Credit (photo via Breakfast at Toast)

Well… something (clearly!) amazing happened this summer! Two things in fact- I met the Barefoot Contessa, and participated in a cookie swap in her home!! Let’s back up, shall we?

Back in June, the lovely ladies at Ladies Home Journal asked me to participate in a cookie swap with a “famous chef” in the NYC area. I immediately said yes and began pondering what restaurant chefs or bakers they’d have participate in a blogger cookie swap. Minutes after saying yes, I received an email back saying that the cookie swap would be with INA GARTEN at her house in Hamptons! First I about fell out of my chair, then I screamed, and then I called my mom and we screamed together. I couldn’t believe it! The rest of that day is just a blur.

The shoot took place in July. One Thursday morning I left my apartment at the crack of dawn and headed to midtown to meet Deb, Joy, Zoe, Lisa, and Julie and hop on a motor home to East Hampton (let’s be clear- I was just as excited to meet these amazing ladies, too!). The day of schedule was as follows: first breakfast with Ina at the 1770 House, and then a cookie swap at her house. The swap took place in her recently built “barn,” the incredible kitchen space where she now does all her recipe testing and films all her television segments. After getting all dolled up we spent the afternoon chatting, sipping sparkling wine, and nibbling on cookies around her gorgeous rustic dining table.

For the swap, each blogger had to provide an original cookie recipe. I came up with a super chewy ginger cookie flavored with apple butter and rolled in red sugar – a twist on your traditional holiday ginger cookie. Other cookies included Ina’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs, Joy’s Black & White Red Velvet Cookies, and Zoe’s Chocolate Caramel Matzo. You can get all the recipes in this month’s issue of LHJ.

All of us were pretty intimidated to meet Ina, but she immediately put everyone at ease. She’s truly one of the most genuine and down to earth people that I’ve ever met- and I assure you, I’m not just saying that. Really. Yes, I love her recipes, but the source of my admiration really comes back to her poise and business sense. She also has an incredible sense of humor and can be pretty witty and sassy! That was cool to experience.

At the end of the day she kept thanking us all for coming. I wanted to be like “Are you kidding? I would have walked here!” Sadly my solo photo with her will probably go down as the most awkward picture of me in history, but oh well! It was such an incredible day and I’m still reeling from the experience.

A HUGE thank you to Ladies Home Journal for making the whole experience possible, and including me. Be sure to check out all the other ladies’ sites this week to see their pics, recaps, and recipes. I’ll share my cookie recipe with you guys tomorrow along with some behind the scenes pics and other little tid bits about the day. I have been dying to tell you all about this for the last four months- I’m so thrilled the day is finally here!

All photos by Quentin Bacon