christmas

My Favorite Things About Christmas

Dean Martin Christmas Music

For as long as I can remember, this has been my favorite Christmas album to play on repeat the second Thanksgiving is over. I love every single song on it, especially “A Marshmallow World.” There’s something beautiful about his old-school crooning, and it’s just full of pure, upbeat, happy Christmas tunes. Michael Buble’s Christmas CD comes in close second, but Dean Martin will always be my number one.

MI0000172280

White Christmas

On that note, let’s talk Christmas movies. Of course I love the new ones like Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but nothing will beat White Christmas. It is without a doubt my favorite Christmas movie, and definitely one of my favorite movies of all time. I love popping it into the DVD player and delving into the four characters’ stories. I get sucked in year after year – the music is classic and the dancing is fantastic. It’s a real treasure of a film and I love curling up with hot chocolate to watch it. I’m excited too because I just found out there’s an old music/movie theater a few blocks from my apartment that’s playing White Christmas on the big screen in the weeks leading up to Christmas! How fun! Now to recruit an accomplice…

1024.WhiteChristmas.mh.120412

One of the best scenes from the movie…

Picking Out a Real Tree

My family has always held a firm position that there is no fake tree on the planet that can outshine a real one. My dad *claims* when we were two or three that the family chopped down our own, but sine there’s no photo evidence I have to classify that as legend. Nonetheless every year my dad, brother and I hop in the Highlander and pick out a real, live, pine-smelling, needle-dropping tree. It’s a tradition I hold near and dear and am so happy that I got to do it this year the day before I moved.

10653768_10152454666752233_204431317027420076_n

Decorating With My Family

Speaking of traditions, the four of us always find a few hours to gather around the tree, pull out all our old ornaments, sip eggnog and play the aforementioned Dean Martin. The best part is during “A Marshmallow World” when Dean Sing’s about a “Pumpkin Head” and my dad just bursts out laughing at my unfortunate nickname. We always talk about each ornament, where it came from, and why it’s important. We have ornaments from both my parents’ houses growing up as well as family ornaments we’ve accumulated over the years AND ones specifically for life milestones for Steve and me. It’s fun to remember all those times in little globes of glass.

unnamed (41) IMG_1722

Candy Dishes

Enough said. I’ve already gone through a bag of Hershey kisses and I’m WELL on my way to finishing the other two bags of Dove Chocolates. No regrets.

unnamed (22)

Holiday Parties

I was lucky enough to make the Holiday Party for the Windy City Blogger Collective (WCBC). I just joined now that I’m a resident of 60657 (woo!) and already I know I made a great decision! The holiday party took place at a swanky Gold Coast restaurant called Del Frisco’s. There was coat check (wait I don’t have to find a booth in the corner to hide my coat under?) and even a girl with a guest list – like, a physical, on-a-clipboard, guest list. It took her a few extra seconds to find my name and I thought I for sure wasn’t cool enough to get in. But pretty soon I was clunking around in my heels with a glass of Prosecco in my hand, hob-knobbing with the finest bloggers in the city. (I’ve always wanted a reason to use the verb hob-knob — score!) This night marked an even bigger occasion, though — I FINALLY MET SUSIE! I definitely felt like I was sitting with the cool kids at the lunch table — this girl knows everyone! Not to mention she’s just as goofy and kind as you’d expect. I’ll admit it was a treat to see her many off-the-wall faces in real life and not just in photos. They are legit.

Another surprise was meeting Cara from Fit Busy Female (who has already stolen my future life by marrying a perfect Chicago man and naming their firstborn Addison. Blast.) and Erin from Loop Looks. Both incredible women who I look up to as well. I love meeting people who started in a job they didn’t love but who took initiative to create a unique path for themselves. It was wonderful chatting with everyone!

Ironically enough I’ve never taken worse photos than I did at this event.

unnamed (42)

Snagged myself a pair of the striped socks

unnamed (43)

Shitty photo, great prosecco

unnamed (45)

Unbelievable chandelier

unnamed (46)

Mulitple-level wine cellar (*swoon*)

unnamed (47)

Beautiful drinks, complete with berry and flower garnishes. Too bad I don’t like whiskey because these looked fabulous!

unnamed (48)

You know it’s a snazzy affair if casual fire is involved

Aside from those god-awful photos, it was such a warm, welcoming and spirited event. My favorite part was knowing I was surrounded by passionate people. Everyone there has their “thing” — there were fashion bloggers, lifestyle writers, fitness lovers and foodies galore. But everyone there has dedicated time and love to their passion and it’s an energy you can physically feel in a room. Definitely a wonderful first holiday party of the season.

Questions:

  • What’s your favorite Christmas movie?
  • Favorite holiday music/song?
  • Any big plans to host a holiday party this year? Or have you ever been to any crazy-classy parties in the past? Do tell!
Advertisements

Celebrating Christmas

To say that the last week has been a whirlwind would be an understatement. As I’m sure it was for the rest of you, it was a week filled with friends coming home, family, and lots of food and drinks.  I shared a few of my holiday recipes last week but besides those I was busy making reindeer cookies, saltine cracker toffee (my new favorite), gingerbread men, and a blue cheese and candied walnut salad for the holiday gatherings I attended.

Image

Image

Image

I also had a lot of free time because my new job doesn’t start until the first week in January so aside from all the baking I filled my time with lots of spin classes, drinks with friends, and going to one of my old high school team’s basketball games.

ImageImageImageImage

Christmas day itself was more low-key than in years past, and it went by without a hitch.  Aside from my chocolate-filled stocking, I got the Lululemon bag that I’d had my eye on so I can’t complain!

ImageImage

Image

Even though my heart was in Texas (Zman went home to visit his family in Dallas) it was a beautiful day filled with wonderful family and great food!

ImageImageImageImage

We enjoyed an extensive list of treats: spinach-artichoke dip, cream cheese and cranberry roll-ups, mimosas (the best part about any holiday celebration), lobster bisque, salad (my no-fail recipe is mixed greens, blue cheese crumbles, craisins, candied walnuts, and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette), spanakopita, pork, cookies and “homemade” peppermint ice cream (vanilla ice cream softened and mixed with crushed candy canes and peppermint extract).

Somehow after some heavy sampling of all the food we had to offer, I made it to the gym about 9:30 that night.  It was a ghost town!

Image

I hung out on the ellipitcal while watching the Kardashian Kristmas special. Say what you want but it’s good entertainment.

So that was my day! Thankfully now that the holiday rush is over I can get back to blogging on the reg. Next up: planning our NYE party! I can’t believe it’s less than a week away! Pinterest, here I come.

Questions:

  • What was the best part of your holiday celebration?
  • What was the best thing you ate?

Image

Coconut-Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches (recipe)

I finally dove into the Christmas cookie baking and came out with a really simple recipe that can be made any time of the year. I don’t think for something to qualify as a Christmas cookie it has to be shaped like a snowman or taste like gingerbread.  Some of the best holiday parties I’ve been to have featured a variety of desserts, tables lined with creative cookie ideas that you might not have had a chance to showcase any other time of the year.

So if you’re looking for a cookie recipe that can be made year-round (but does feel double decadent while listening to Jingle Bells and drinking eggnog) give this a shot!

Coconut-Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches

Image

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 oz  semi sweet chocolate, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, coconut, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a standing mixer combine the melted butter, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Mix for a few seconds until combined and smooth.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones in the mixer.  Mix until just combined. If the dough is too dry, add 2 tbsp of milk.
  5. Drop teaspoons of the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches in between each cookie.
  6. Bake in oven for 8 minutes, or until the sides start to brown.  The cookie will continue to cook on the pan even if it’s not in the oven.  Wait a few minutes before removing the cookies onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.
  7. Melt the 2 oz of semi sweet chocolate in the microwave, being careful to stir every 30 seconds so the chocolate doesn’t burn.
  8. Spread the melted chocolate on the bottom of one of the cookies and place another cookie on top, creating a cookie sandwich.

Image

Image

ImageImage

Enjoy!

Question:

  • What’s your favorite kind of Christmas cookie?  I love way too many to pick just one — but I do love pizelles (google it!)

let the baking begin!

Well there’s no more denying it: Christmas is almost here.

Image

Two weeks from today we’ll all be congregating with family, eating honey ham and Pillsbury rolls and exchanging presents under the Christmas tree.  The funny thing about me is that this is my favorite time of the year.  Christmas day isn’t what does it for me.  It’s these weeks leading up to the day that I love the most. It’s when I crave hot chocolate, sitting by a fireplace, and ice skating (getting me to voluntarily spend time outside during sub-zero temps won’t happen any other time of the year). I love shopping for friends and family, turning on Christmas carols, and most of all, baking! And since I’m in the process of changing jobs (more on that later), I have the next three weeks completely free during the day that will undoubtedly all be taken up with Christmas baking!

I already have my sights set on reindeer cookies, German chocolate cake, saltine cracker toffee, Nutella-filled chocolate cookies, and brownies with peppermint frosting. It’s gonna be a sugar-filled, chocolate-infused few weeks, and I love it.

I’m doing my best during the holidays to keep my meals at home normal, so today’s WIAW is nothing extravagant. I save that for my weekends in the city 🙂 I’ll tell ya, the minute I live in the city I’m going to spend all my money on food. It’s a problem.

I started out the day with some exercise: 30 minutes alternating speeds on the stairmaster followed by an upper body workout.

Image

Pics or it didn’t happen right?

Luckily the only other guy in there was directly behind me so I could do this selfie stealthily (say THAT five times fast!)

Breakfast

ImageToday’s breakfast was plain Greek yogurt with truvia and pomegranate seeds. I ate this directly after having a protein shake so needless to say I got my day started with a heavy dose of protein. I’m usually not a big fan of eating breakfasts without some form of bread or oats, but this meal had so much protein that it kept me full for hours and hours.

Image

Protein shakes excite me. It’s basically chocolate milk with a kick.

I did a little grocery shopping later in the morning for some healthy items.

Image

Kiddinggggg. It’s December 11th. Healthy treats aren’t on my brain. Please forgive the picture quality…the lady obviously didn’t understand that I have a blog to take pictures for.

Lunch

Image

Lunch was one of my favorite things lately: butternut squash and carrot soup. It sounds kind of funky, but it tastes like cheese. If something can make vegetables taste like cheese, it’s got my vote.  Thank you to my local grocery store for featuring this soup during these cold winter months! Sometimes soup is exactly what you want. I ate two pieces of bread with hummus on the side.

Dinner

Image

When I got off work at the restaurant I scoured through our leftovers and came up with a chicken fajita.  It’s my Mom’s recipe full of bell peppers, onions, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes.  After I snapped a picture this was topped with copious amounts of guacamole to make it even better. Usually I have two fajitas but the protein-heavy day plus a few handfuls of popcorn while I was making it filled me up.

Finally, I can’t end this post without acknowledging a very special person: today is my Dad’s birthday!

Image

Happy birthday to the most important man in my life. My biggest fan, the popcorn guy, my Dad. I love you so much!

Image

Question:

  • What is your favorite sweet holiday treat to make this time of year?

WIAW + it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas

I’m officially in the holiday spirit. Sure, I have a bad cold thanks to the lovely winds and quick weather changes that the Midwest so graciously provides each and every year. Yeah, I’m still working doubles almost every day this week. But you know what? It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Starbucks transported me into a winter wonderland yesterday, where I got a lot of my work done.  Breakfast was enjoyed with a cappuccino in a holiday cup, surrounded by Christmas jazz, and a background of mini Christmas trees.

ImageNo room for Scrooges here–I’ll get my work done with a smile and enjoy the holiday season as it approaches. After all, it’s always gone before I know it.

Lunch was basically breakfast part two. I think I have an egg addiction…even though my doctor warned me about my cholesterol (successfully making me feel like an overweight, middle-aged Italian mobster) I just can’t get enough.  

ImageLunch was a two egg omelet filled with green and red peppers, onions, cheddar cheese, red pepper flakes, and served alongside veggie sausage patties.  I really need to update my meal rotation.

I had more work to complete throughout the afternoon but of course I made time for snacks:Image

Homemade ginger lemonade (to help fight the cold), no sugar applesauce with tons of cinnamon, and a peanut butter english muffin (sprinkled with chia and flax seeds.  i love me some omega-3s).

Serving was busy as I was up in the bar, but the fact that people seem to get friendlier as the holidays approach helped a lot. I wish people could feel that warm and fuzzy all year long, especially towards their servers 😉

Dinner was eaten at the restaurant while I closed up shop.

Image

Vegan chili (black beans, red beans, chickpeas, and tons of veggies topped with avocado, red onion, and tomatoes). The fact that I made it through this meal without adding cheese or corn bread astonished me too.

I got home just in time for Modern Family to start. I cuddled up on the couch with some cheese, crackers, apples, and peanut butter and called it a night. ((I wasn’t kidding when I said I’m always hungry))

I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday cheer! It might not be time to turn on the Christmas music station, but the feeling is in the air!  Have a great Wednesday and eat lots of goooood eats.

Question:

  • Is it too early to listen to holiday music?

Thought for the day:

Image

Image