Friday, December 28, 2012

New Years Party: Appetizers

My favorite part about the holidays is the build up to Christmas.  The warm fuzzy feelings that you get walking past the Marshall Fields Macy’s Windows, or listening to the Red Cross Santas’ bells.  It’s semi depressing when the holidays are over, and you have no more Christmas music to listen to or holiday movies to watch.  But hey, life must go on.

Now that Christmas has passed, it’s on to the next:  New Years.   This year I keep putting it to the back of my mind;  I absolutely do not feel like planning my New Year’s events. 
I’m considering spending the holiday at home with a bottle of Prosecco, and a delivery pizza.  Go ahead and call me the New Year’s Grinch.  If you’re thinking of hosting a little soirée, and pizza won’t quite do the trick, here are some appetizers that will be quick and delish: 

What are your plans for the New Year?  Have you decided on a resolution yet?  I don't have a resolution as much as I have an order to not look like an obese bridesmaid.  I have 7 months to lose one third of my body weight.  Guess I better eat as many appetizers as possible before the new year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} Holiday Cocktails

If you’re having a holiday soirée this weekend, I’m sure you already have the Christmas lights up, the cookie plate out, but what about the cocktails?  If all you have is the nog, here are some holiday cocktails ideas that will be sure to make you warm and merry:

Left Row (Top to Bottom):
Right Row (Top to Bottom):

Enjoy! Hope everyone has fabulous plans, and remains safe this holiday weekend!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} 9 Budget Friendly DIY Gift Ideas

I already mentioned one thrifty Christmas gift idea, with my hot cocoa post, but what are some other Christmas gift ideas for when you’re on a tight budget and want to be creative?  I can’t post all of my ideas since some people haven’t gotten their presents from me yet.  But, below are some of my favorite gift ideas for the DIYer with a small wallet and a little free time: 

Top Row (Left to Right):
Center Row (Left to Right):
Bottom Row (Left to Right)

Do you have any DIY gifts you would like to share?  Feel free to email me if you do, I would love to share on my blog!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} DIY Christmas Cards

Christmas:  The time to scramble around and send out last minute Christmas cards.  Oh wait, that’s just me.  Most people are on top of things and have their cards out in early December.  I, on the other hand, mailed mine…erm….today.  Whatever, getting your Christmas card after Christmas…NBD.   You’ll live.

So, for the past few years I have tried to make my own cards.  I have never really been one for scrapbooking; I don’t have a silhouette or a cricut. I love the look, just don’t have the tools. So I usually have to be resourceful.  This year I used leftover cardstock and a stamp.  As usual, I inflicted my rotten humor onto my friends (Home Alone anyone?).  I just can’t handle sappy quotes.  Not my style.

Here are some cards that my Christmas cards are jealous of.  So much prettier and better thought out:

Right (Top to Bottom): 

If you haven't sent out your Christmas cards yet, you should probably get to it!  Only 6 Days left till the big day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} DIY Glitter Bamboo Tree

When I started decorating for the holidays, I spotted a gorgeous holiday decoration at Nordstroms.  Of course my first thought is that I could make a cheap version of the same tree (even though it wasn’t THAT expensive).  This project would be easy to make with the kiddos. 

Materials Needed (Makes a 10” Tree):
3 Craft Foam Sheets
1 10” Bamboo Skewer
1 Small Paper Plate
Glue Gun
Elmers Glue
Gold Glitter Paint/White Glitter
Gold Paint
Leaf Print Outs of Various Sizes (Small, Medium, Large)

1. Print out the shape of leaf you want for your tree, and glue onto the foam with elmers glue. If you have a fancy printer, perhaps you could print directly onto the foam, however I do not, so glue it was. You could also consider free hand drawing or cutting the leaves.  I used three sheets of foam, and that was just enough leaves (I had a few leftover).

2. This is where the kids are handy!  Get some kid friendly fiskars, and cut the leaf shapes.  Once cut, remove the paper print backing.

3. Apply glitter glue and glitter to each leaf (I used glitter glue and glitter, but you could just skip this step, or apply your elmers glue and glitter)

4. Take your paper plate and cut off the paper rim, so all you have left is a dome (if turned upside down).
5. Paint the bamboo skewer and the  bottom side of the paper plate gold.

6. Once the paint and the leaves are dry, start assembling.  Just take the leaf and skewer it up the stick. Assemble from smaller leaves first, finishing with larger leaves.  There is no need to glue the leaves on, as the hold is adequate from just skewering.

7. Move bunches of leaves about ¾ inch apart, so it looks like a Christmas tree.
8. With the paper plate gold side up (making a dome), punch the pointed end of the bamboo skewer through the center of the plate.

9. Hot glue the bamboo stick on the now bottom of the plate (the non gold side).  Allow to cool, and then sit it upright, and you have a foam crafty Christmas decoration! 

Here is the foamy goodness result:

 Only one week left till Christmas!  It's crunch time folks!

Monday, December 17, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} DIY Hot Cocoa Gifts

Oh man, the 17th day of Christmas almost never was!  I was so busy shopping today I ALMOST forgot about my blog post.  But don’t worry.  I remembered. 

What’s the best thing to come home to after a long day of Christmas shopping (aside from a glass of champagne and a spa treatment)?  A nice warm mug of hot chocolate.  Hot chocolate is not only the perfect winter treat, but also makes a great gift or stocking stuffer.

Behold an amazing recipe for hot chocolate, courtesy of Alton Brown (cayenne pepper, who knew??)


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • Hot water


Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.
Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine. Seal the rest in an airtight container, keeps indefinitely in the pantry. This also works great with warm milk.

And here is a little packaging inspiration:

Top Row: S'mores Cocoa Cone / Hot Cocoa in a Can (get the can for $1 at Target!)
Be sure to check back daily for holiday inspiration!  As a special treat to my readers, I'm offering a 10% discount in my Etsy store with the discount HOLIDAY10.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} Chicago at Christmas: Zoo Lights

What could be better than Christmas lights paired with baby gorillas?  NOTHING. I know that going to the zoo during the winter seems illogical, but both zoos in the Chicagoland area put on some pretty amazing Zoo Lights. So if you feel like braving the cold (or really not so cold weather...) head on over to a zoo or two.

Every year I try to get to Lincoln Park’s Zoo Lights.  It’s free.  Santa is there.  Not to mention, this year there are two new baby gorillas (and a baby zebra!).  Count me in.

Source: LP Zoo
 The lights are presented by ComEd and Charter One.  As mentioned previously it is FREE.

Dates: 21-23, 26-31, January 1-6

Hours:  5-9 pm

Address:2001 North Clark Street · Chicago, IL 60614

For more information visit the Lincoln ParkZoo Website, or call 312-742-20000

 While highlighting the zoos in the city, I can’t fail to mention the mothership, Brookfield Zoo. I would love to make it to Brookfield Zoo’s holiday magic this season, but alas I must only choose one. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Great bear wilderness and nightly dolphin show!
Holiday magic runs the remaining weekends in December (12/22, 12/23) plus  12/26-12/31

Hours: 4:00pm-9:00pm

Regular Zoo Admission + Parking Fee apply (womp womp):Children (3-11) $10.50 Seniors (over 65) $10.50  Adult (12-65) $15.00

3300 Golf Rd, Brookfield, IL 60513

For more information visit the Brookfield Zoological Society’s Website

Saturday, December 15, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} Chicago at Christmas: High Tea

As I sit here watching it rain and NOT snow outside, I’m going to once again suggest a fun thing to do at Christmas in Chicago.  Maybe it doesn't quite look or feel like Christmas in the city, but there are some things you can do to up your holiday cheer. 

Today I’m highlighting the Drake Hotel’s afternoon holiday tea.  I had the opportunity to go with my grandma a couple weeks ago, and very much enjoyed it.  While sipping on chocolate mint truffle tea, and nibbling an egg salad on brioche, I felt nothing short of English. All I needed was a proper English hat and the experience would have been complete (Kate Middleton, not Princess Beatrice style…)
So while the tea is not just a holiday event, it surely is something that is best experienced at Christmas time.




Source: Drake Hotel

The Deets:

Afternoon Tea takes place daily in the traditional Tea Lobby, featuring live harp music performed 365 days a year. Each seating lasts approximately an hour and a half and reservations are recommended.

Open Daily 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

140 East Walton Place
Chicago, IL 60611

For more information call 312.787.2200 or visit The Drake Website

Friday, December 14, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} Stocking Stuffers

Happy Friday everyone!  Can you believe Christmas is in just little over a week???  I hope tonight all of you will be nice and cozy by a fire watching Christmas movies, unfortunately this girl hasn’t done any of her Christmas shopping, so I will be freezing, roaming around Chicago trying to!  I know. Unbelievable considering I’m unemployed.  Get off my back.

That leads me to today’s blog post:  Stocking Stuffers, affordable edition.  I love my stocking, I might look even more forward to it than any other gift on Christmas (in complete honesty, the things I look MOST forward to at Christmas in no specific order are:  family, food, and 24 hours of Christmas Story).  Santa has always done an amazing job of finding the perfect shade of lip balm and the right amount of control top tights.  For those of you with brain block, or last minute Christmas eve shopping tendencies, here are some stocking stuffer ideas sure to be light on the wallet:

In the spirit of Christmas, consider a donation as a stocking stuffer as well.  Remember those who need the most during this holiday season!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} Silver Thumbtack Wreaths

Are you ready for ANOTHER wreath tutorial?  I hope you said yes, because that is what you are about to get.  This entire project only cost me $8 in supplies, since I had most of it on hand (it didn't actually cost me any money since my mom picked me up the thumbtacks, thanks moms!!!)

So anyways, I saw Madigan Made’s thumbtack wreath a while ago and have been jonesing to make one for myself.  What better time than Christmas?  The best part about this tutorial is that the wreath is versatile and can be hung during virtually any season; the little thumbtacks almost give a snakeskin/hammered metal appearance.  Loves it!

Disclaimer:  I cannot be held responsible if at the end of this project you get the urge to stab someone with thumbtacks and rip your fingers off.  It is super repetitive and boring, but sitting yourself down with a glass of wine and the movie elf may help to alleviate the monotony.

-Duct Tape
-X Acto Knife
-Silver Thumb Tacks (My 3 6” wreaths used 750 tacks all together, tacks are available at the Dollar store typically in boxes of 200 or 300)
-Ribbon for hanging

1. I used the same steps to make a wreath form as I did with my moss wreath.  First, I printed off a 6” circle using Microsoft publisher, then I glued the cut out to the cardboard.

2. Carefully cut out the cardboard shape using the xacto knife. (Do this 3 times to make 3 cardboard wreath bases).  Obviously if you're lazy you can buy foam wreath forms, but I'm cheap and am trying to be green.

3. Crumple up newspapers and magazines, then tape the magazines to the cardboard using the duct tape.  Try to make all 3 wreaths uniform in shape and size.

4. Start poking the thumbtacks through the wreath form.  No glue necessary.  I didn't have a specific pattern, however I found it easiest to work from the inside of the form outward.

5. Continue this process until the entire wreath is covered in thumb tacks (each wreath used around 250 tacks).
6. Optional:  Get your favorite holiday ribbon, make a bow and tie around the wreath for hanging.

And here they are!  Even the boy liked them.  I would say that is a success!

Be sure to check back daily for more holiday inspiration!  As a special treat to readers, I'm offering a 10% discount in my Etsy shop, just use the code HOLIDAY10!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} Christmas Cookies: Peanut Butter Kisses

It’s no secret.  I love me some sweets. So, it should be no surprise to you that today I’m going to post one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes: the Hershey kiss peanut butter cookie.

Image Courtesy of

For as long as I can remember, my mom has been baking delectable Christmas cookies.  I mean, every year there are TONS of Christmas cookies (i.e. boxes and boxes).  And, every year I look forward to all of her cookies, but I hold a special place in my heart for this one particular cookie (really, it most likely stems from the fact that I get to eat the leftover Hershey kisses.  I used to live on Hershey kisses during finals week at U of I….I would walk into the classroom with glazed over eyes and a chocolate stache…but that’s a story for another day….).  


  • 48  HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup REESE'S Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  •  egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •   Additional granulated sugar


  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.
  2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each
    cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
    About 4 dozen cookies.

Recipe courtesy of, which can be found here

Be sure to check back daily for more holiday tips, ideas, and recipes (nom nom nom!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} Chicago at Christmas: CTA Holiday Train

One of my all-time favorite holiday books growing up was The Polar Express, a story about a young boy who takes a magical train ride to see Santa and the gift he receives.  I loved it, and always wanted to take such a train.  Alas, I never took the Polar Express, but if you’re in Chicago and are gunning for such an opportunity, check out the CTA’s Holiday Train.

I was lucky enough to catch this guy unexpectedly one day.  It was awesome.  It was like I hit the blue line jackpot; it sure beat sitting in a dingy old CTA train playing the game “name that smell/stain”.

If you’re interested click here to check out the train’s schedule.  A ride on the train costs $2.25.  The train runs now through December 22, so get a move on!

All images courtesy of Wikipedia
Be sure to check back daily for more holiday posts!

Monday, December 10, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} Unconventional Christmas Trees

I know I've mentioned multiple times that I don’t have a Christmas tree this year.  What I really should be saying is that I don’t have a traditional tree.  This year, since my tree is whoknowswhere, I needed to get creative and re purpose some piece of furniture into a tree. 

Say hello to my ladder tree.  No doubt if you are on pinterest you have seen the ladder trees of Christmas past (I was inspired by CB2’s tree).  It’s pretty simple, all I did was string on some white lights, tie some cotton twine and hang a few gold round balls, stick an angel on top, and call it a tree.  Loves it.  Easiest tree (and perhaps my favorite???) ever! The cats like it too…they climb the stairs and pretend they’re Godzilla while knocking down the angel.  They may or may not have chewed off one or two of the ornaments as well…..

Some other alternative Christmas tree ideas that I love:

Top Row, Left, Clockwise:
Post it note tree / A Merry Mishap's Light Tree / Branch Tree / Tomato Cage Tree /
Jane's Wall Collection Tree /
Crockery Christmas Tree / Tierlantijn wood plank tree / Sweet Paul's Cupcake Tree

Be sure to check back daily for more Christmas tips and cheer!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

{25 Days of Christmas} Chicago at Christmas: Christkindlmarket

Just a few short blocks away from Millennium Park is a little plaza of Christmas cheer.  Located in Daley Plaza is the Christkindlmarket, a German Christmas market filled with little holiday trinkets and treats.  Have you ever wanted to browse cuckoo clocks and beer steins while devouring potato pancakes and cider (the kiddos can visit Santa too)?  Well then this is the place for you.  I guarantee the aroma of spiced chestnuts will be enough to draw you in. 

My personal advice: Go early to avoid the *nearly claustrophobic* crowds that develop; the market is freakishly crowded on the weekend too. Oh, and be sure to try the bee sting cake (Bienenstich).  It’s a German cake with sweet dough, caramelized almond topping, and a vanilla custard filling. Basically it is crack for your sweet tooth.

The FREE admission market is open now through Dec. 24, 2012
Location: Daley Plaza in the Chicago Loop (between Dearborn, Washington and Clark Street)
Hours: Open Daily Sun - Thu 11am - 8pm Fri - Sat 11am - 9pm
Special Hours: Christmas Eve: Dec. 24th 11am - 4pm

For further information, call (312) 494-2175, or visit their website
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