Best Holiday Drink Ever – Cinnamon Spiked Eggnog

Best Holiday Drink Ever - Spiked Eggnog

I love, love, love Christmastime. Not only is it a fun and playful time of year, it helps make the long Minnesota winters a little more bearable. But it’s more than just a date on the calendar, the holiday season is an ambiance. A collection of sensory experiences: frosted windows, pine boughs, scented candles, crackling fires, snuggly quilts, that embody the season. But there is another much-needed item to complete the scene: seasonal cocktails. Cranberry punch, mulled wine, hard ciders, Irish coffees, they all taste their best surrounded by twinkle lights and mistletoe.

Another seasonal staple, by far, is eggnog. Love it or hate it, eggnog is at the top of the list when people envision a holiday-themed menu. And in our home, we happen to love it. Our refrigerator is regularly stocked with eggnog, it is one of, if not the best mixer for Christmas season cocktails. Some people go the traditional route when spiking eggnog and just add Brandy. Others add Kahlua or Bailey’s. We like to take it a step further, with what my husband has dubbed, the Hotnog.

Hotnog is cinnamon spiked eggnog using whiskey and root beer. I don’t know what made him think to add these ingredients together, but I am so glad he did. We have served this recipe at several holiday gatherings and it is always a hit.

How to make cinnamon spiked eggnog

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Print Recipe


  • 1-ounce shot glass
  • 12-ounce glass


  • 2 ounces cinnamon whiskey
  • 2 ounces root beer
  • Eggnog
  • Ice
  • Whipped cream (recipe below)
  • Ground cinnamon


  1. Pack your glass full of ice
  2. Pour in your whiskey and root beer, stir
  3. Add enough eggnog to fill the remainder of the glass, stir
  4. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with ground cinnamon

To make whipped cream


  • Hand mixer
  • Mixing bowl – chilled for at least 30 minutes


  • 1-pint heavy whipping cream
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In your chilled bowl, whip all ingredients until stiff peaks form
  2. Serve immediately or store in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months

Best Holiday Drink Ever - Cinnamon Spiked Eggnog

Print Recipe

Enjoy this delicious recipe all season long. Sending wishes to you and yours for a very happy, very merry holiday season.





Learning Night Time Photography: Take One

If you follow Gray Duck with regularity, you know I love pretty pictures. And I love taking pretty pictures – at least trying to. I think there is something magical about photography. The lights, shadows, and shapes that make up the world are captured, stored, and viewable anytime you please on a tiny digital card (or negative). Magic.

Anyway. Over the years I have worked to improve my “life capturing” skills, and while I’m not the best at it, I’m not the worst at it either. That’s because, with time and consistent practice, it’s natural to get better at whatever you are doing. But, recently I realized I’m not taking any chances. I’m just practicing the same skills over and over. And while knowing what you are doing is part of what makes photography enjoyable, there is an element of fun in taking risks, too.

Sometimes, to learn new things, you need to throw yourself out into the deep end and see if you can swim. For me, night time photography is something I have always wanted to learn how to do. This past weekend, I decided to jump into the deep end. I took the opportunity to head out to the European Christmas Market in downtown Saint Paul to try my hand at some after dark street photography. Here are a few of my best shots:













I didn’t really have a plan. I just grabbed my camera, adjusted some of the settings and did my best to blend into the background. I do have to say, after I got over my concern of being noticed (I probably only had three of all the people I photographed notice me), I was able to really get lost in what I was doing. I had a lot of fun. And, in all honesty, I’m kinda proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone, because sometimes, you just have to go out and do it. 




Handmade Holidays: Seed Stitch PomPom Knit Hat

Handmade Holidays Seed Stitch PomPom Knit Hat

’Tis the season of giving. Or for most people, myself included, it is the season of over-spending, last-minute shopping, and stress. But, as I get older, rather than rushing through over-crowded malls in search of the best “deal,” I work, instead, to focus on the essence of the season: time spent with loved ones, binge-watching holiday movies, eggnog, snow, and twinkle lights.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to give gifts, but now I prefer to do so in a low-key, handmade kind of way. Baked goods, custom mugs, even homemade jewelry dishes. Handmade gifts show the receiver that you not only thought to make them a gift, but you spent time thinking about what they might like, planning for it, shopping for it, and creating the project. And unless everyone I give handmade gifts to are fantastic actors, they are usually very much appreciated.

My favorite handmade items to gift are knitted goods. I love to knit. It is one of the few things I do in life that leaves me feeling accomplished. It’s pretty cool to take a ball of yarn and make a scarf, fingerless mitts, or a blanket. It’s like magic. Plus, if the zombie apocalypse really is a thing, I like to know I have at least one survival skill up my cable knit sweater sleeve. Anyway, if, like me, you are a slow knitter, bulky hats are the perfect gift to make. In less than an afternoon you can whip up this stylish, and very cozy, gift for just about anyone on your list. So, pop in your favorite holiday flick, grab some yarn, and get knitting.

Seed Stitch PomPom Knit Hat

Seed Stitch PomPom Knit Hat

Print Pattern


  • 70-90 Yards of Super Bulky Yarn. I prefer Wool-Ease Super Bulky – color: Mustard
  • Size US 11 (8.0 mm) – 16” circular needles
    Size US 13 (9.0 mm) – 16” circular needles
  • Size US 13 (9.0 mm) – double pointed needles
  • Stitch marker
  • PomPom maker or you can use one of these techniques
  • Finishing needle


  • CO: Cast on
  • R1: Row 1
  • R2: Row 2
  • R3: Row 3
  • K1: Knit 1
  • P1: Purl 1
  • K2: Knit 2
  • P2: Purl 2
  • P3tog: Purl 3 together
  • DPN: double pointed needle


  1. CO 44 stitches with US 11 needles
  2. Without twisting stitches, place marker and join in the round
    Start K2, P2 ribbing until piece measure 2 inches from cast on edge (about 8 rows)

*Switch to US 13 needles

  1. R1: (K1, P1)* repeat to end, on the very last stitch Purl into the front and back of the same stitch (45 stitches total)
  2. R2: (P1, K1)* repeat to end
  3. R3: (K1, P1)* repeat to end – Repeat R2 and R3 until hat measures 8 inches from CO edge


*Switch to DPNs

  1. R1: (P3tog, K1)* repeat to end, P1
  2. R2: (P1, K1)* repeat to end – Work R1 and R2 until about 6 stitches remain


  1. Break yarn and thread tightly through remaining stitches, knot, and weave in ends
  2. Make a pompom with the remaining yarn and attach to top center of the hat

Knit one, or knit 50. Choose different colors, knit stripes, finish with a tassel rather than a pompom, make it a beanie, or increase the slouch, there are countless variations to make this item truly one-of-a-kind. And at about $7 a piece (using the yarn I recommend) and a few hours of your time, you can wow everyone on your gift list.

Happy Holidays!



Hearty Apple-Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal


How many times have you heard the old adage: breakfast is the most important meal of the day? More times than you care to recall, I’m guessing. I have a hard time putting that rule into practice. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been a morning person, or maybe it’s because I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. But I’m guessing it’s mainly because I don’t want to make decisions at 5am. A large cup of strong coffee is the only thing on my mind when I roll out of bed in the morning, but I know I should probably start making better decisions about my breakfast. Coffee just won’t suffice. So, for the past two weeks, I decided to test out this theory to see if starting my day with a hearty meal really does make a difference. My conclusion: who knows.

It’s hard to tell with absolute certainty that eating breakfast makes me feel better. I start my day before the sun comes up, nothing makes that better. But what I do know is that all the extra fiber I’m eating helps keep things, um, moving. I do feel more stabilized in my energy – probably due to the low glycemic-index rating of steel cut oats. And I definitely feel fuller longer, which dramatically reduces the frantic eating style I have grown accustomed to.

Either way, I know for certain eating a healthy breakfast doesn’t make me feel worse. Suffice it to say, it’s a routine I think I’ll stick with. To make it easier, I make up a big batch of oatmeal and split it into individual servings on Sunday. This allows me to grab one out of the fridge every morning, heat it up and eat it without ever having to think about it. And now that winter is on its way, a big bowl of comfort food will help make those cold mornings a little more tolerable. Just a little.

Here is my go-to recipe. This is the way I like it, but feel free to experiment:

Hearty Apple-Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal


Prep Time: 10 minutes  /  Cook Time: 35 minutes  
Serving Size: 1 cup  /  Number of Servings: 10



  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups steel cut oats (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 large pinches of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 4 apples, cored and diced into 1” cubes (I prefer Pink Lady)
  • Sweetener of your choice, to taste (honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup)
  • Toppings of your choice (walnuts, granola, dried raisins, etc.)


  1. In a large Dutch Oven, melt butter over medium-high heat
  2. Add oats and stir, lightly roast the oats until they become fragrant – about 3 minutes
  3. Stir in water and salt, bring to a light boil
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the water is completely absorbed, stirring regularly. Adjust the heat as needed, you want to be careful not to burn the oats to the bottom of the pot.
  5. After 30 minutes mix in cinnamon and reduce heat to low
  6. Add apple chunks and simmer for 5 more minutes
  7. Stir in your sweetener of choice one Tablespoon at a time until it tastes to your liking
  8. Toss in remaining toppings, mix well and either spoon the oatmeal into individual bowls to serve immediately or store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for later. Keeps for up to a week.

To Reheat

Add a tablespoon of water to your oatmeal and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between. Continue until warmed through. Enjoy.




An Open Letter to my Husband on our Anniversary


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September 26, 2008 – Exchanging Vows

To many, today is just another day. To you and me, it is a quiet celebration of being “us” for another year. It is not a notable anniversary. There is no gold, silver, or platinum commemorating the day. But there are two people. Here. Together.

Nine is not a unique number of years. Just 3,285 days blurred into one. But for us, they are 3,285 days of dedication, perseverance, and support. We are still standing. Side by side. Hand in hand. Adapting, learning, and growing.

To think, we were once strangers. To think we once existed in this world without knowing each other. It seems unimaginable.

Our lives have not been static. Our experiences together have not been easy. There have been days we wanted to walk away in search of something else. Something simple. Something different. But we have, in some unknown way, spun a thread.

A thread that runs from your heart to mine. It is small and at times overlooked, but it is strong, defiant, and ever-present. It is the thing. That pull. That desire to keep working. To keep going. To trust in our journey together.

It is what allows us to live a stripped-down life. To be vulnerable. To be our messy and complicated selves. It allows us to live with an intimacy that, if I searched for a thousand lifetimes, would never be able to replicate. Ever.

So, on this day, a day where nine years ago we stood in front of family to promise our best selves to one another, I thank you.

Thank you for helping me understand what love is: a complicated, erratic, intangible thread that is sometimes ugly and painful, but unspeakably patient.

A love that isn’t always understood, but is nonetheless beautiful.

A love that is sometimes stubborn but is comfortingly consistent.

A love that, I have no doubt, will tether us to one another until our last breath.

To my dear husband, I love you unconditionally.

I love you without reservation or expectation.

I love you blindly and without control.

You make me better.

For myself.

For you.

And for us.


I love you.

Happy anniversary.