Show-Stopping Thanksgiving Side Dishes

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been dreaming about sinking your teeth into that delicious roast pheasant this upcoming turkey day. However, there’s plenty of room on your dining table for more than one star! I’ll be cooking the side dishes for my family feast this Thanksgiving. Speaking of giving, you can find my show-stopping side dish recipes on CBS local, here. When I think of sides, I think about my favorite vegetables and what I grew up eating during the holidays. Next, I pick out the vegetable, learn a classic recipe and build a flavor profile that compliments the main ingredient in a new and exciting way.  My cheesy Brussel sprout casserole, for example, is a modern take on creamed spinach, which has always been a long time favorite in my family. Using fresh herbs and easy to follow recipes, I’ll show you how to make this Thanksgiving a memorable one. Be sure to follow me on Instagram @citygirlriss for more tips, tricks and to see how my family reacts to the new and improved versions of their favorite side dishes! Be sure to scroll down for more Thanksgiving articles.


Show-Stopping Thanksgiving Side Dishes


8 Gluten-Free Recipes for Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving Dinner Alternatives to Turkey

How to Turn Your Thanksgiving Gathering Into a Party

8 Dishes to Enjoy While Watching Football


Happy Thanksgiving,

City Girl Riss



The Ultimate Halloween Roundup

Halloween weekend is almost upon us! Which means things are going to start getting real spooky around here! If you didn’t know Halloween is my favorite holiday…which means I absolutely love writing articles about it. However, this October was a crazy month in both my personal life and at the office so I compiled together the ultimate Halloween roundup of archived articles! As for 2017, here are my top picks for the trendiest costumes this year…

Wonder Woman

Because who wouldn’t want to be Gal Gadot? Not only is she a bad ass in real life but she also plays one too as a strong female lead that we can all get behind in the new Wonder Woman movie.

Pennywise the Clown

As much as I hate to recommend this because clowns scare me….Pennywise. I’m still scarred from that random scary clown epidemic that happened across the US where creepy clowns were just trolling the streets. Of course, with the remake of the Stephen King classic, “IT,” the streets are bound to be filled with creepy clowns and you will most definitely be on trend this Halloween.

The Dancing Hot Dog from Snap Chat

We’ve all seen the filter, we all know the music, we’ve all made the snaps! Break out star of the year goes to the dancing hot dog from Snapchat! Buy a hot dog costume, carry around a Bluetooth speaker, and show us your best dance moves!

Beauty and the Beast

The live-action Disney remake of Beauty and The Beast was probably the best of the Disney remakes thus far and therefore is certainly a great option for this 2017 Halloween season.

Game of Thrones

Sing it with me…Da Na Na Na Na Na! With an epic finale this year, you’re bound to see several replicas of the seven kingdom’s favorite characters. However, if you’re like me the storyline development has made you fall in love with your favorite characters all over again as we find new romances, Khal Drogo who…, and, spoiler alert, ice dragons in the final season. Also, makes for great group costumes and epic sword battles…you’re welcome.

In the meantime….here are some great Halloween articles to keep you in “good” spirits all week long…


Step-By-Step Halloween Makeup Guide


5 Spookiest Halloween Travel Destinations


5 Scariest Haunted Houses in America


5 Pumpkin Recipes Your Kids Will Love


How to Turn Your Home into a Haunted House


Also, enjoy this amazing video by my friend of the dancing hot dog…

Happy Halloween,

City Girl Riss


Best Educational Gaming Apps for Kids

As a teacher and caregiver, parents frequently approach me expressing their growing concern for their child’s dependency on electronics. Today in 2017, the concern is not only real but completely plausible. Just like everything else in life, a happy life is a balanced one. Everything can be enjoyed in moderation. Set your own household guidelines and encourage kids to make good choices with in-app purchases as well as what they play. In this article I wrote for CBS, I share my tried, tested, and kid approved apps that are not only educational but also a lot of fun. You can read my top picks over at CBS local, here. Just in time for back to school!


Best Educational Gaming Apps for School Age Children





Easy One-Pot Dinners for Back to School

Easy One-Pot Dinners for Back to School

The start of September means it’s time to go back to school with plenty of busy weeknights ahead. As a teacher, my nights also get busier leaving me more likely to dial the delivery man than open a cookbook. In this article I wrote for CBS, I’m sharing my go to recipes for a delicious meal that only uses one pot for a quick and easy cleanup. Whether you’re feeding a family of four or a party of one, fresh ingredients and little effort go a long way.  You can find the recipes on CBS local, here.


Easy One-Pot Dinners for Back To School Time


Happy September,

City Girl Riss

How to Throw the Perfect Labor Day Party

How to Throw the Perfect Labor Day Party

As summer comes to an end, our days spent basking in the sun sipping on ice cold beverages in the great out doors with friends are limited. Say goodbye to summer and hello to fall the right way with an epic Labor Day soireé!  I’ve researched, tried and tested the best trends of summer compiling them all into three articles for CBS local. I’m breaking down step by step how to achieve the party of the year featuring delicious food, simple decor,  boujee cocktails, and the greatest lawn games! I’ve done all the ground work so that you can enjoy a stress-free Labor Day.  Check out the links below, and let me know what worked best for your weekend!


How to Throw the Perfect Labor Day Party


Drink Recipes for you Labor Day Get Together


5 Lawn Games for Labor Day Celebrations


Happy Labor Day,

City Girl Riss

5 Reasons to Summer in Alaska

5 Reasons to Summer in Alaska
Wondering where to plan your next summer vacation? Look no further than our very own 49th state, Alaska! I had the pleasure of visiting Alaska in June and completely fell in love with the lifestyle, history, and epic views. I’ll be writing up a 48-hour itinerary for Juneau, Alaska in a few weeks. In the meantime, check out this article I wrote for CBS on all the reasons why you should visit, here. Local tour guide and fellow travel blogger Matt Koller gave me an insiders guide to this incredible city as well as an exclusive interview.

5 Reasons to Visit Alaska in the Summer

Read the full interview I had with Matt Koller below:
Merissa Principe: What brought you to Alaska?
Matt Koller: This is probably the number one question I get working as a guide in Alaska–people always want to know what life is like here, and more importantly, why I chose to come! The answer is always “the same thing that brought you here”–a sense of adventure, and a desire to see one of the most storied, beautiful parts of our country. While I’ve decided to spend a summer here and most people visit for a day or two, the yearning to learn about the Last Frontier is the same thing that brought us all up here.
Merissa Principe: What was your preconceived notion of Alaska before you moved there? How has it changed since living there?
Matt Koller: I worked in Denali two summers ago, which is much further inland than Juneau. The interior maintains a rugged sense of individualism; the “homesteading” culture is alive and well in rural Alaska. I expected much of the same when moving to Juneau, but was pleasantly surprised to find a community of artists, naturalists, and entrepreneurs…there is much more of a balance between being “outsdoorsy” and traditional cultural pursuits than in the other parts of Alaska I’ve visited.
Merissa Principe: Why should more American’s visit Alaska?
Matt Koller: Alaska is known as the Last Frontier, and while many Alaskans who’ve lived here for their entire lives have certainly seen it become overly commercialized in the past 20-40 years, it still maintains a sense of wilderness not often found in the rest of the United States. Alaskans regularly deal with inclement weather, wild animals, and the inconveniences of being off-the-grid of the 21st-century commercial supply-chain, and think nothing of it. It’s part of the way of life here, which is why so many people love it. Americans would benefit from a taste of what our country was like a hundred years ago–removed from the conveniences of modern life.
MP: In your opinion, what makes summer’s so special there?
MK: Alaska is far north, and in the summer gets 18-24 hours of daylight (depending on where you find yourself in this enormous state.) After a long, dark winter, summer is the time to play–no matter what the weather is. People come out of hibernation, and engage in every outdoor activity you can think of, from sailing & kayaking to biking & mountain climbing, summer is a time to be active. Even if you don’t spend your winters here, the energy is infectious and compels you to do more with your day.
MP: What’s your favorite Alaskan made memory thus far?
MK: My favorite Alaskan memory would have to be seeing a pod of Killer Whales in the wild. The legend surrounding their intelligence and emotion makes them an animal that humans revere, and they’re far too well-known for their ability to perform tricks at SeaWorld. Finding a family off the coast of Juneau, in their natural habitat, was an overwhelming experience.
MP: Name one thing you love about being a tour guide…
MK: I love the opportunity to spend every day educating people about the world around them. I only have their attention for a few hours, but sometimes that’s all it takes to get them excited about looking, feeling, and smelling the earth. I’m not looking to change lives in an instant, but the opportunity to inspire them to learn more about the environment and how we interact with it is a special job to have.
MP: Where’s your next trip?
MK: I’m currently applying to be a vehicle operator at McMurdo Station in Antarctica–a job I’ve been describing as half-bellhop, half tour guide. So assuming everything goes as planned, my next trip will be exploring a continent few people have the chance to visit!
About Matt Koller

Matt Koller is a writer and photographer currently living in Juneau, Alaska. He enjoys crafting narrative nonfiction pieces and taking pictures of the world around him.

In his free time, you can find him skiing, hiking, road-tripping, socializing, travel-planning, or just reading a book at the beach.

You can read about his adventures on, and follow his journey on Instagram at mkolle01.

Photo was taken on Northstar Trekking Glacier Hike by Merissa Principe
Happy Traveling,
City Girl Riss

Managing Your Money to Save for Travel

Managing Your Money to Save for Travel

This week’s, “Tip of the Week,” is a hack you can use to save money for your travel fund. When trying to set a budget and plan a vacation, you have to start with the basics. Ask yourself how much income you currently have coming in, how much you need to cover your bills and how much you’ll need for weekly expenses such as groceries or a night out. Of course, you could sit down and count every penny you’ve ever made, every dollar you’ve ever spent, and so on, but why go through all that work? Once upon a time, I used to do exactly that and it was a meticulous and daunting process. I would track down everything I spent and put it into categories, such as food and drink, transportation, entertainment, etc. Once I had all of my finances mapped out I would create a budget and experiment with where I could cut back on spending. Personally, I’m a big abuser of buying coffees at Starbucks instead of making it at home. I would spend $70-120 a week on coffee! Some weeks that was more than I’d spend on alcohol after a weekend with friends. For me, making a one-time investment in a good coffee machine and disciplining myself to make coffee at home saved me an extra 100 dollars a week that went directly to my travel fund. Within a few months, I had saved up 1,000 dollars for a vacation I scored a great deal on flights, stayed with a friend and stuck to places where I could get a decent meal for less with a little research. For you, you may not drink coffee, however, you can look for an area within your budget that has some flexibility. Do you have a high grocery bill? Research cheap meals to make and set a strict budget for yourself! Have a high cable bill? Look into canceling your cable for a few months and invest in Netflix or Hulu. Not using that gym membership you swore you would? Cancel it, and find workout apps or youtube videos to stay fit.

Now, thanks to the ever-growing field of technology, I have an app that does all of my budgeting for me! I use the Mint app that tracks all of my accounts, categorizes my spending, allows me to set budgets for myself, and alerts me when I’ve gone over budget. It also has helpful tips and lets you know when you have upcoming credit card payments due. I’m not sponsored or affiliated with this app in any way, just sharing a useful tip to encourage you to start saving, start traveling, and living your best life!

As for my coffee maker? I personally drink iced coffee so it’s hard to find at home solutions. Luckily, my parents are amazing and got me a Ninja coffee maker for my birthday! I highly recommend it! You can find more info about it, here.



Happy Traveling,

City Girl Riss