See Ya Later, 2016; We Probably Won’t Miss You.

It’s been quite a year. And, if we’re honest, we’re glad it’s coming to an end. But even so, we have had some fun this year, somehow. So we’ll leave you with our 12 favorite pieces from this year — one from each month. And we’ll see you in 2017.

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January: Scout’s Must See NYC Artworks – Scout gave you the low down on New York’s must see artworks.

February: Playlist: Love, Love, Love – Our Valentine’s Day-themed playlist of love songs.

March: Eat This, Drink That: Benedictine & Bee’s Knees – A spring drink and spring snack.

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April: Look Up – Zelda waxed poetic about the wonders of being up on the roof.

May: Once You’ve Loved Somebody – Our love letter to the Dixie Chicks, and the songs that made us.

June: Summer Character Inspiration – Scout took a look at our favorite fictional Southern ladies and wondered where they would be if they’d moved up to the big city with us.

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July: Just Folks: Andi Morrow – Just Folks returned with this Tennessee lady.

August: Year Three – As we moved into our third year, we shook things up, and thanked y’all for sticking with us.

September: Required Reading: Volume Nine – Zelda delved into a new genre: cookbooks.

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October: Not Unhappy – Scout discussed her experiences with depression and handling it.

November: 20 Hours In America: Why We’re With Her – Despite the outcome of the election. We remain with her.

December: Thankful – Zelda looked at the good things in this dumpster fire of a year.

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It goes without saying that 2016 has been a bit of a year. From shootings and refugee crises and legends lost to the festering dumpster fire that was this year’s presidential election, there is no shortage of doom and gloom around us. Even in this season of twinkly lights and cocoa, it can be hard to muster up much good cheer after a year this heartbreaking, soul-crushing, utterly devastating in so many ways. I began last week thinking 2016 had dealt us all the bad cards we could take (and then some), hoping to finish up the year with holiday festivities and the quiet hope that somehow next year would be better. And then, I sprained my ankle.

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I am no stranger to injuries of the pedal variety. In college, I managed to break my foot not once but twice, losing two whole semesters to crutches and casts and physical therapy appointments. So when, as I have done too many times before, I tripped on some stairs last Tuesday, my overwhelming feeling — other than the searing pain at my insole — was anger. I was mad at myself, for somehow managing to do this yet again. I was mad at my feet and their seeming inability to remain in one piece for more than 5 years at a time. And I was mad, so mad, at 2016, for delivering yet another kick when I was already so far down.

But here’s the thing: As I lay on my couch these past few days, a bag of frozen mango chunks on my foot, drowsy from pain meds and hydrating like it was my job, slowly that rage began to be supplanted by another feeling: gratitude.

In spite of everything and against all odds, I am thankful.

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I’m thankful to have a job with paid sick days, and a boss who was incredibly nice and accommodating and gave me the time I needed to heal.

I’m thankful to work with a group of incredibly kind, smart, and passionate colleagues, whose hearts are always in the right place. I’m thankful for all the emails and texts and snaps they sent me while I was gone.

I’m thankful for my roommates, who picked up prescriptions and made me dinner and watched infinite Christmas movies with me while I convalesced.

I’m thankful for my friends who surrounded me with love and support, offering help and food and puppy gifs to get me through the week. I’m thankful for the ones who gave me hugs, who texted, who brought me meatballs and cookies and refills so I could spend my apartment’s holiday party holding court on the couch. I’m thankful they slowed their steps to match my limps so I wouldn’t have to walk alone.

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I’m thankful for my family, who are always there for me no matter the geographic distances. I’m grateful for Skype and Facetime and bitmoji, which make the miles not seem quite as long. I’m thankful I’ll get to hug them in person in a few days.

I’m thankful for candy cane Hershey kisses and Seamless delivery people and Good Earth tea (now available online again!).

And I am thankful for art.

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I’m thankful for the ways artists of every media have helped me make some sense out of this truly surreal year. I’m thankful for the escape it offers, the comfort it provides, the conversations it sparks — how it keeps expanding the definition of humanity. And most of all, I’m thankful for the way it inspires hope. When countries and families — and ligaments — are being torn asunder and it seems that the forces of darkness have won, the best art inspires me to look for the light.

Five Golden Rules for Surviving the Holiday Season

Happy holidays, y’all! The great festive season is upon us, bursting with trees and carols and tinsel and mistletoe. It’s a truly wonderful time. But you know what isn’t so wonderful? The overwhelming stress, anxiety, and exhaustion that can result from trying to contend with the social demands of the Yuletide period. This season is not for amateurs, and it’s easy to be swept away by the great tide of happy hours, cocktail parties, festive outings, and more that crash into one’s Facebook come December 1st. Whether you’re an extroverted holiday lover like Zelda, or a more gathering averse but equally festive introvert like Scout, December can be a lot. So we teamed up with Casper and pooled our mental resources to come up with five golden rings rules to get you through the next few weeks relatively unscathed — with your social circle, Christmas spirit, and mental health intact.

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1. Plan ahead. The key to avoiding holiday-festivity-overload is to make a list, check it twice, and stick to it. Whether you go digital or hard copy is up to your personal preferences, but either way you need to get organized. And make sure you take into account transit between events. In an ideal world, your itinerary would start with the event farthest from your home and proceed in an orderly fashion, closer and closer to your bed. If this isn’t possible, assemble a team of rogues to travel with, for solidarity and to lessen the inevitable pain of shelling out for an end-of-night Uber.

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2. Prioritize. Even the most well-organized social butterfly will not be able to attend every function, gift exchange, and ice skating foray of the month. It’s okay to excuse yourself from that one ugly sweater party you know you don’t have the outfit for anyway. Pick the ones that you care most about, with the people you care most about, and be ok with that. (We made this post instead of our regularly scheduled All the Fixin’s, because we prioritized our own time this week. Trying to lead by example and all that). And pro tip: Try to stack the events you’re most interested in (or the ones hosted by those nearest and dearest to you) earlier in your day/evening, when you’re less likely to bail because of exhaustion.

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3. Pre-stock your bar. Let’s face it, all this socializing and carrying on and spending time with your family is going to require libations. So before your holiday season gets into full swing, buy a case of wine for hostess gifts and a fifth of bourbon (or other preferred liquor) for your flask. You’ll make it through. (Pro tip number two: Liquor and wine also make great last-minute gifts for any friends, acquaintances, or co-workers (of legal drinking age) who spring the dreaded “Here, I got you something!” on your unprepared self. We also recommend picking up a pack of stick-on bows; they work wonders when transforming any item in your household into a seasonal present.)

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4. Don’t be a mooch. That’s right, y’all, we said hostess gifts. If your mama raised you right, you know that it is rude to show up unprepared. Your hosts have invited you into their homes, decked their halls, gone to the trouble of preparing food and beverages (or at the very least an appropriate playlist). Bring a bottle of something boozy, or a festive treat (or if you’re going for extra credit, check out one of the items on Zelda’s 2016 Gift Guide!). Don’t make the ghost of Emily Post past haunt your ass: She will (she was a badass). And she’ll make you send her a “Thank you” note within a week of said haunting. Manners matter, children.

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5. Make time for me-time. Last but not least, make like the bears and be sure you hibernate a little this winter. Even the most extroverted of extroverts needs time to rest and recharge. The holiday season is a marathon, people, and there’s no way you’re going to be at your merriest and brightest if you’re running on zero sleep and too much mulled wine. Weekends packed full of parties? Set aside some weeknights to regroup. Weeknights full of office parties and gift exchanges? Reserve at least one weekend night this month for you, yourself, and some cozy fun.  And for maximum relaxation, allow us to suggest the above checklist! Pour yourself some cocoa, get under the covers, and turn on your favorite holiday classic (top of our list is White Christmas, guaranteed to chase all your humbugs away). There’s nothing like a pillow fort for a long winter’s nap.

Holiday Cocktails Three Ways

December is upon us, which means we are in the season of holiday parties and cocktails. Let’s be honest: Our real talent lies in drinking, and the holidays are when we really put thos skills to the test. Come December, you can find us throwing back festive libations at parties and pop-ups and bars, especially those that take the holiday spirit to a scale only possible in New York (see Rolf’s, below). But if you can’t make it to such a Christmas Mecca for your holiday cocktail fix, Zelda and Scout are here for you.

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First, eggnog. Like its October counterpart, pumpkin spice, it is divisive. Its milky goodness is not for everyone, but those who do love it love it a lot. I am one of those people — a Noghead, if you will — and really the only thing that makes this drink better is the addition of alcohol. If you want to get fancier than the sweet and simple classic, Southern Comfort Eggnog + Southern Comfort Whiskey (the only way to drink nog, according to friend of the blog Jason), see below:

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Salted Caramel Eggnog from The Cookie Rookie: This is one for the more ambitious in the kitchen (the Zeldas rather than the Scouts, if you will). You have to make the eggnog from scratch, see, which surpasses my three-step recipe limit. In a large saucepan, combine 3 cups whole milk, 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 4 cinnamon sticks, 3/4 tablespoon vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg, and bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the mixture starts to bubble, remove from heat and allow it to steep and cool for 5-10 minutes. While it’s brewing, in a stand mixer, beat five eggs and 2/3 cup sugar until fully combined. Pour your egg mixture into  your milk mixture and whisk together. Add 1/2 cup caramel syrup, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 3/4 cups dark rum. Garnish with caramel and more nutmeg if you’re feeling fancy.

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Next up, milk punch. Bourbon Milk Punch is a traditional holiday drink throughout the Deep South, but especially in New Orleans. The drink dates back all the way to at least the 19th century, when it was featured in 1862’s How to Mix Drinks, perhaps the very first cocktail recipe book. This recipe from Arnaud’s French 75 bar seems to be the internet-accepted classic version of this cocktail, featured by the New York Times and Garden and Gun alike. Pour 1¼ oz bourbon (or, if you prefer, brandy), ½ oz dark rum, 2 oz whole milk or half-and-half, ¾ tsp vanilla extract, and ½ oz simple syrup into a cocktail shaker filled three-quarters full with ice. Shake until chilled (roughly 30 seconds). Strain into a rocks glass and dust with grated nutmeg.

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Finally, for the clear alcohol connoisseurs, we have a seasonal twist on a classic — an Apple Cider Mule. This drink. from Pretty Plain Janes, swaps the summery lime flavors of the typical Moscow Mule for wintry notes of apple and spice. In a copper mug full of ice, as is traditional, mix 1 1/5 oz of vodka (this recipe suggests caramel-flavored liquor, but you do you) and 3 oz apple cider,. Top off with ginger beer, and garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sticks.

Photos via: The Cookie Rookie, Johnny Autry, Pretty Plain Janes