Christmas time always makes me think of New York.......and whatever else might be said adoringly or disparagingly about it, the city knows how to put on a hell of a charming holiday season. Festive twinkling lights reflected in damp streets, rosy-cheeked faces smiling in puffy coats, giant garlands and enormous high-rise Christmas trees, carols wafting around in the air from street performers on trumpet and sax...it's a giant rock & roll neon-lit Nutcracker in a snowglobe, and it's perhaps the only season I truly miss in NYC. Thinking of the city is what led me to these chocolate-dipped meringue cookies, as well. A riff on that classic deli staple, the Black & White Cookie, they're a lighter-than air version that I like to say is what a Black & White would be like if those cookies were actually tasty (in reality, they're usually pretty spongy and disappointing).

A crisp, sugary vanilla meringue cloud dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with a little extra holiday pixie dust in the form of crushed candy canes, these Black & Whites never disappoint. They couldn't be easier to throw together, but they're no last-minute cookie, so make sure you leave plenty of time for that long, slow bake in a warm oven. There are two things you can't hurry, after all: love...and meringues. But these, I swear to you, are worth the wait, and they'll make any holiday gathering merry & bright!

Black & White Meringue Cookies

Makes about two dozen cookies

3 egg whites

3/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3.5 oz. dark chocolate (I use a bar of my favorite 70% dark)

1 candy cane

Preheat oven to 200 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Begin beating egg whites until foamy, either by hand or in an electric mixer, add sugar and continue beating. Add salt, cream of tartar and vanilla, continue beating for about five minutes or until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks.

Place generous spoonfuls of meringue onto parchment (about two tablespoons per cookie), swirl into roughly cookie-shaped objects, but remember that slight imperfections in meringue can make everything a little more beautiful. Bake for 2 hours at 200 degrees; meringues are done when the outside is dry to the touch and they can be easily lifted from the parchment. Remove and let cool thoroughly.

Unwrap candy cane, place in plastic bag and gently crush into pieces with the bottom of a coffee cup. Break or chop chocolate into small pieces. In a small microwave-proof bowl, place 2/3 of chocolate and microwave 20 seconds at a time until fully melted. Stir in remaining chocolate pieces, keep stirring until mixture is fully melted. Dip each meringue halfway into chocolate, then place on parchment to set. While chocolate is still shiny, sprinkle candy cane pieces over each one. Repeat until done, let set fully, then enjoy!

MY FAVORITE THINGS // aka Gift Guide 2015

Just because you're a last-minute holiday shopper doesn't mean you care any less......ooooooor such is the story I tell myself, anyway. Every year I receive the same shock in mid-December when I realize we're under two weeks from the big day and I haven't done a thing except bake cookies (which is why so many of you get cookies from me every year, MERRY CHRISTMAS, ha ha!). I adore giving presents but always prefer them to be thoughtful gifts (something utterly beautiful, useful, or in the best case scenario, both), rather than mindless gift-giving (i.e. here's some AA batteries and a gift card, go nuts). If I were to get my act together earlier in the year and shop well in advance of the holidays, though, here's a baker's dozen of the things I'd be stockpiling for gift-giving...perhaps that's a New Year's resolution for 2016?

Because I believe that by supporting independent artisans and unusual businesses you give a gift twice (once to the recipient, and once to the maker in the form of your support), my 2015 gift roundup is fully committed to that cause. Every item on this list is something that comes from a maker or a shop I love--and not coincidentally, everything on this list is something I'd love to give or own myself. Many are from desert dwellers in my own hometown (showing local love for Standard Wax + Ateleia + The Aestate + From the Reliquary, though the latter was once from Phoenix and is now relocated to Portland), while the rest are from other far-flung locations....but all are unique and special.

Hopefully this helps to inspire some thoughtful, intentional gift shopping and giving on your part this year. Remember, there's always time to give a gift certificate to a unique shop or get ahead for next winter, as well.........so don't despair, last-minute shoppers! Happy holidays to everyone!

[ Click link below to see sources ]
1. Candles by Standard Wax // @standardwax

2. Petrified Wood Serving Boards, Terrain // @shopterrain 3. Forged Bronze Spoon, Ann Ladson // @annladson

4. Stoneware + Porcelain Bowls, Herriott Grace // @nikoleherriott

5. Glazed 'Marble' Bowls, ONEandMANY // @oneandmany_

6. Staub Mini Cocotte, Food52 // @food52

7. La Brisa handwoven Peruvian throw, The Citizenry // @the_citizenry

8. The Kinfolk Table, Food52 // @food52

9. Leather Journal + Brass Pen by Ateleia // @ateleia

10. Gold Stacking Rings, Favor // @favorjewelry

11. Beverly II by The Aestate // @theaestate

12. Inverte Necklace, From the Reliquary // @aozers

13. Wooden Spoons + Scoop, Old World Kitchen // @poldersowm