Salt, Moonshine and Cupcakes

That pretty much sums up my New Year’s Eve. Our friends Tasha and Steve were gracious enough to invite us with Joe and Laura to their new home to ring in 2014. Dinner was served, drinks flowed, salt was thrown and we watched the ball drop. Wait, one of these things is not like the other.

Cupcake countdown

We exchanged gifts with Steve and Tasha on New Year’s Eve and they got Joe and Mike each a Bug-A-Salt gun. And, since boys will be boys, they turned the fancy fly swatter on each other and shot salt across the room. Awesome gift, guys! Sorry for the mess, Tash…

It was a very fun, relaxed New Year’s Eve and we all had a great time. If you saw the holiday fête I put together you know I appreciate even the smallest details when it comes to throwing a party, and I loved how much thought Tasha put into the evening, like the countdown cupcakes shown above. She had also just attended a whiskey tasting with Steve in the city and they served special moonshine champagne cocktails that were different than anything I’ve ever tasted.

Moonshine Champagne Cocktail

Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try:

Ingredients

  • 1 shot Moonshine Whiskey
  • 1/2 shot lemon juice
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup
  • Champagne

Process

Pour whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Mix until chilled and well combined. Pour mixture into glass and top with champagne. Serve immediately.

As you can see in the photo above I drank my champagne with a festive gold-striped paper straw. They always add a fun touch to a special drink without breaking the bank.

I didn’t get a ton of pictures throughout the night, but here’s a snapshot of our celebration. Cheers to 2014!

Laura and I before we headed out for the night.
Laura and I before we headed out for the night.
Our last selfie of 2013!
Our last selfie of 2013!
Girlfriends!
Girlfriends!

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Enjoying that Moonshine Champagne Cocktail!
Enjoying that Moonshine Champagne Cocktail!
Bug-A-Salt = Bug Assault, get it?!
Bug-A-Salt = Bug Assault, get it?!
Midnight champagne toast!
Midnight champagne toast!

So, I ate a fish eye…

I know, totally gross, right? It actually wasn’t that bad, and Mike was proud of me for fulfilling a family tradition in his great grandfather’s footsteps to eat the eye of a fish when it’s served whole. The flavor tasted kind of salty like an oyster, but the texture wasn’t as benign. Think jell-o meets a contact. Not that I’ve eaten a contact lens, but that’s what I imagine it would feel like. Check out Mike’s vlog of our Christmas Eve celebration to see the deed go down. I take the fateful bite at around 6:30.

The fish eye was actually my second food adventure of 2013, preceded by my first taste of veal tongue about a month earlier. A true foodie takes risks, right? Hey, Anthony Bourdain espoused the deliciousness of the veal tongue at the EXACT SAME RESTAURANT where I tried it. I walked, er, ate in Bourdain’s footsteps. You have to give me some sort of foodie props for that, people!

Though I don’t think I’ll be trying fish eye again anytime soon, I do want to keep up my adventurous foodie momentum in 2014. What do you recommend I try next? What’s your most adventurous food risk?

Bye Bye, Christmas

Our Christmas decorations are finally down, and our house feels so empty. The end of the holiday season comes with both a feeling of sadness and a feeling of relief. Sadness because weeks worth of planning, organizing, shopping, cooking and cleaning has culminated in a few short-lived days of revelry. And relief because all those weeks of planning, organizing, shopping, cooking and cleaning are over, for now.

Goodbye Christmas

The hectic pace of the holidays kept me from blogging (sorry about that). As a brand new blogger I’m still trying to find my groove, and I was enjoying a holiday break where I could be more unplugged than I usually am. I’m blessed to work for an agency that closes between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and though I was checked into email throughout that time it was nice to come out from behind my computer screen for some much needed R&R.

That said, the Christmas decorations are put away and I’m excited to be actively blogging again. How was your holiday? Are you sad to see the holidays go or are you looking forward to a slower pace this month? I have a hunch my winter hibernation will include some fun projects around the house. Who’s with me?!

Christmas Greetings

Choosing a Christmas card totally snuck up on me this year. December had already arrived when I stopped to realize I hadn’t even given it a thought yet. I spent some time scrolling through dozens of designs and sifted through photos to find one that was card worthy, but I just couldn’t get excited about it.

Then, we woke up on Sunday, December 8 to our town transforming into a winter wonderland thanks to a storm that unexpectedly dumped nine inches of snow on South Jersey. I’m not kidding, they were calling for a dusting to one inch – and this is what we were left with.

Snow Storm

Let me also specify that this was ONE HOUR after the flakes started falling. I’m not kidding. The snow started around 11:00 am and by 12:00 pm it looked like this. As soon as I saw how beautiful the snow looked outside a light bulb went off in my head. I had an opportunity to get REAL SNOW FLAKES in our Christmas card! How perfect is that?! So we got all gussied up and headed outdoors (in some not-quite-warm-enough clothing, might I add). Our first attempt at a picture was the one above which our sweet neighbor Lou snapped for us in the middle of the storm. How many people can say their neighbors are willing to don snow boots and a scarf to take a picture for you? Yeah, we’re pretty lucky. I liked the way the colorful Christmas balls popped against the snow white background, but it wasn’t quite working for me, so we moved on to plan B.

As I mentioned in my post about our outdoor decorations, we had hung colorful C9 light bulbs on our fence in the back yard. I thought it’d be playful to add them into our shot so we wrapped a few strands of bulbs around us and snapped a few pictures before we were so frozen that we had to head back inside. The snow was falling so fast that my hair was totally covered in less than 10 minutes – but it was SO worth it! Here’s what we ended up with.

Christmas Card Photo

It’s kind of a miracle that we ended up with such an awesome shot, especially since Mike took it himself and we didn’t have a third person behind the camera. I love the glow of the C9 light bulbs and the snowflakes in our hair. As soon as we came inside I plugged the photo into the template I had picked out on Tinyprints and ordered them right away! This is what I chose.

Christmas CardCan you believe I found a Christmas card with gold glitter AND chevron? I know, right? SO BRIE! And luckily Mike liked it, too.

When the cards were ordered we decided to run to the grocery store since we didn’t have any food in the house. We were planning to be out all day at Longwood Gardens with my mom and we weren’t expecting the large snow fall at all, so I definitely wasn’t prepared. The grocery store is 10 minutes away from our house. 45 minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot. This is what we were dealing with.

Snow Road

Again, this was NOT in the forecast! Can you believe that? We kept getting stuck and having to back up and gain traction before moving forward again. This is Mike’s worried driver face.

Mike Concentration

And this is the shameless selfie  I took while waiting for us to get to the store. Can you tell we had been in the car for a while?

Snow Selfie

Two hours after we had left the house we were home, pantry and fridge fully stocked. I ended up working from home the next two days because another snow storm rolled through on Tuesday, though we didn’t get hit quite as hard that day. We’ve had four snow storms since December 8, so I’m a little nervous that this winter is going to be VERY snowy. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, did you send holiday cards this year? Did you take a photo for the occasion or did you have a great one from earlier in the year that you deemed card worthy?

Holiday Fête

Mike and I had the pleasure of hosting a little holiday fete last weekend with a few close friends and family. I was excited to have another chance to entertain since it’s been a few months since our housewarming party back in September. I wanted to avoid spending the entire party in the kitchen, so I kept the appetizers, entree and dessert super simple yet festive and gave our home an extra special feel with some DIY decorations I made just for the occasion.

Christmas Tree Cheese Platter

I placed a few easy to eat finger foods on the dining room table to greet guests as I finished our main course in the kitchen. This cheese platter in the shape of a Christmas tree was Mike’s idea and I think it turned out to be super cute, and even easier to make. I layered a variety of cubed cheese, rosemary springs, crisp green grapes and cherry tomatoes on an extra large solid-wood carving board that we got at Target on clearance.

Appetizers

An easy homemade spinach dip, pita chips, and gourmet Italian breadsticks rounded out my appetizer offering. I combined some of our vintage green glassware and candle holders with a faux ranunculus arrangement for a centerpiece that felt casually collected.

In an effort to keep my party decor simple and warm I opted to use real cranberries, snippings from our big jade plant and floating candles to make a variety of accents for the powder room, kitchen, dining room and living room.

Cranberry Christmas Centerpiece

 How cute are they? Not to be outdone by the cranberry and candy cane vase I threw together to adorn one of my living room side tables. Swoon.

Side Table Peppermints

Peppermint Candy Cane

 And I was lucky to have an adorable elf helping me set up for the party. Hello free entertainment. Well, we did pay for his dinner. Ha!

Elf Cody

 I used a free Christmas printable and some chevron burlap to create a cheery sign for my display of wine glasses with the hope of inviting guests to help themselves – which they did. I used a standing photo frame from Ikea that is very easy to switch up for any party. I originally got a set of to use for our wedding and they’ve come in handy ever since.

Cheers Christmas Sign

 I didn’t snap any photos of our dinner buffet, but I kept it simple by using crock pots to keep my hot side dishes warm throughout the night. Our menu included holiday baked ham, cheerful mac and cheese, Santa’s seasoned veggies, Rudolph’s arugula salad and ho! ho! ho! rolls. I gave each of the dishes a holiday name for a playful touch since the dishes were so simple. My work week leading up to the weekend of the party was very busy, so I was thanking my lucky stars that I chose to keep the menu very manageable.

Last, but certainly not least, was the dessert table. This was my favorite set up of the night! The morning of the party I pulled some of my pre-mixed Christmas cookie dough out of the freezer (post on the pre-mixing and freezing ahead process to come) and baked four different kinds of cookies – peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal scotchies and Christmas spritz. They’re all recipes I got from Laura and they turned out great (surprise, surprise). I arranged them on a simple white platter and got two decanters out to serve milk (and later egg nog).

Christmas Cookie Dessert Table

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Decanters

 I set up egg nog in a punch bowl across from the dessert table on my small island in the kitchen. The punch bowl was an amazing vintage thrift store find that my mom purchased for my bridal shower last summer with 10 adorable matching cups. I filled the bottom of the punch bowl with ice, placed a metal bowl on top and poured the egg nog into it so the ice would keep it nice and frosty throughout the night. It was a hit!

Egg Nog Punch Bowl

 I’m so glad we had a chance to hang with some friends before the craziness of the holidays really ramps up in the coming week. Are you attending or hosting any holiday parties? What are you favorite tips for holiday entertaining?

A Vote of Holiday Confidence

Christmas is in nine days. How is that possible? How has December flown by so quickly? The months fly by faster and faster the older I get, but this December surely holds some sort of record for slipping through the hourglass faster than ever before.

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December is like one long race to the finish line that culminates in Christmas. Each year trying to beat your fastest time baking cookies, planning holiday menus, addressing Christmas greetings and wrapping each gift to perfection.

My Christmas cookies are ready and waiting in the freezer to be baked at a moment’s notice. At least half of the gifts on our Christmas list are purchased and neatly placed beneath the tree, and our Christmas cards went out with the mail this morning. I’m more ‘with it’ this year than I ever have been before – but I still feel like I’ve got a marathon ahead of me. It doesn’t help that this time of year is one of the busiest at my agency. It’s like one big ‘let’s see if she can hack it’ test to round out the year. Am I right?

My biggest source of inspiration during the holidays is Mike. Christmas truly brings out the big, lovable, wide-eyed kid in him that still wants to believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas Eve. Attend one Christmas Eve vigil with him and you might just become a believer. Trust me. His excitement for holiday traditions make every last minute spent icing his favorite ricotta zuccarini cookies (just like his Italian grandmom did) worth it. Every. Last. One.

This post is my vote of holiday confidence to all you super women out there keeping the magic alive, and letting some guy in a red suit take credit for it. It’s cheesy, I know, but don’t forget to stop and savor the moment. Remember what it is that makes this all worth it. Remember that the best memories rarely come from ‘perfect’ moments. And for goodness sake, let’s remember that Facebook posts and Instagram photos share just a glimpse at someone’s life. What’s that pin that’s been making its way around Pinterest? Don’t compare your entire life to someone else’s highlight reel.

Here’s to savoring your own highlight reel this holiday season and letting go of the stress. Go get ’em!

Free Printable Chalkboard Christmas Art

I had to share another set of awesome Christmas printables that helped make our living room photo collage extra festive. I found these free printable chalkboard Christmas prints on The Cottage Market and I loved that they each featured lyrics from traditional Christmas songs. We have a lot of red and green going on in our holiday decor, so I thought these chalkboard prints would break up all the color nicely while still being very Christmas-y in their subject matter. How cute are they?!

Free Christmas Chalkboard Printables

If you love these as much as I do, you can download them for free over at The Cottage Market and print them to use in your home. I purchased three white frames to hold similar birthday-themed chalkboard printables for Laura’s birthday dinner knowing that I wanted to keep switching out the prints for each holiday throughout the year. The frames were roughly $10 each purchased a T.J. Maxx and I love the way they can easily be changed to match the season. I printed the art on plain 8×11 printer paper and cut it to fit the 8×10 frames. Here’s what they look like up on my photo collage wall and propped on the side table next to the couch.

Photo CollageIMG_0849 Photo Collage Left Angle

Trimming the Tree

The tree is trimmed! Here it is cheering up our living room in all its glow-y heart warming beauty!

Finished Tree

I mixed all of our old ornaments with a few boxes of new designs and I love the way it turned out. Here’s a closer look at the ornaments I used.

All Ornaments

Old Ornaments
Old Ornaments
New White Ornaments
New White Ornaments
New Bird Ornaments
New Bird Ornaments Leftover from Wreath Making
New Silver Ornaments
New Silver Ornaments

I started with the above silver ornaments that I picked up at Target this year to fill in such a big tree. This is the biggest Christmas tree we’ve ever had so I knew I needed some extra ornaments, but I didn’t want to break the bank. I got 12 large ornaments in this pack for $15 and they nicely filled in a few holes in the tree. I layered on the white ornaments next followed by the green and finally the red. Putting the entirety of each color on at time helps me evenly distribute them throughout the tree for a more balanced look. Last and most importantly I added our more ornate and meaningful ornaments like the angel that Mike’s grandmother gave him during their last Christmas together, and the lovey dovey snowman couple that we got for our first married Christmas – complete with our wedding date. Here’s the final product!

Tree Close Up

Red Reindeer

Bow Tree Topper

Christmas Tree

Tree & Stockings

Finished Tree

There it is! I love how it glows like this at night. I’ve become quite the Christmas sap since marrying Mike. He’s helped me see Christmas in a whole new way and appreciate little things like a cheerful tree much more than I used to. If you celebrate Christmas, do you have your tree up yet? What’s your favorite ornament?

 

 

Easy DIY Holiday Art

After crafting the outdoor Christmas wreaths to adorn the front and side windows of our home this season, I knew I wanted to add a personal touch to our indoor decorations with a fun Christmas craft as well. This is what I came up with.

Easy DIY Holiday Art

My inspiration came from this glitter reindeer art that I pinned a while ago. I liked the simply get sparkly look of the art and it looked like something simple enough to recreate. When Mike and I were in Michael’s a few weeks ago looking for Christmas decorations I picked up a pack two canvases on sale for $7 and two bottles of Martha Stewart’s craft paint for $2.99 each, so these two custom pieces of holiday art cost me just $11. I also used a foam brush, a small painting brush and some glue dots that I already had. If you had to buy these I think the total project would cost around $20. Still a great steal for some awesome art – especially because you can make the colors and style match your decor perfectly! Here’s a look at everything I used for this project.

Art Utensils

The stencils you see above were a great Pinterest find, too. Another blogger had them hosted on her site available for free download. Score! Free printables are one of my favorite things. You can access these files here.

Christmas Printables

As I mentioned above, I bought two new craft paints for this project. One is a silvery glitter called Antique Silver and one is a gorgeous red color called Habanero. I also had a pretty forest green and bright white left over from another project that I had on hand but didn’t end up using.

Craft Paint

Before I started painting, I took a second to look through the four pages of stencils I printed out to come up with a rough composition for my art. I decided that I liked the Christmas tree and reindeer shapes best. Initially I wanted to make a print with all three words, but I thought ‘love’ was a little more hippie than what I was going for, so I decided to split up ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ and pair each one with a shape.

Three Words

Peace Reindeer

Joy Christmas Tree

With the competition set it was time to affix the stencils to the back of the canvas so I could trace the design right onto the front. I used the easily removable glue dots to secure the stencils because they wouldn’t do any damage to the back of the canvas.

Glue Dots

I don’t have one of those handy dandy artist light boxes, so I used the next best thing. My iPhone! I clicked on the flashlight tool and held the light up to my canvas so I could see the lines clear enough to easily trace them. The light wasn’t bright enough to lay on the table, so I had to hold it right behind the canvas and move it along the lines as I traced to get a clear view. I was worried this may be a pain but this step when pretty quickly and wasn’t very difficult.

iPhone LightBack Lit StencilHere’s what the tracing looked like when it was finished. I used pencil so I could easily erase or paint over mistakes and readjust the design if necessary.

TracingWith the stencils traced it was finally time to break out the paint. I decided to use the light silvery glitter color first because the red would cover it later so I didn’t have to be careful painting outside the lines. I quickly applied the silver coat with a foam craft paint brush.

Silver Coat

With the silver glitter coat finished it was time to break out the small paint brush for the smaller sections that I was painting red. The brush has an angled tip which made it a little easier to stay within the lines, but my lines certainly are not perfect. Notice the uneven ‘Y’ in joy? My lines aren’t straight at all, but I think these small imperfections lend a hand crafted feel to the art – so I love it.

Red Paint

I reversed the colors for the second print and made the background red and the letters/shape glittery silver. Nothing says Christmas like a glittery reindeer. Holla! Note, you can’t pick up on the glitter in the below photo as well as the above, but it’s just as glittery in person as the background of the joy print.

Peace Print

With both of the prints painted I was done! The project took me about 2 hours in all between gathering all the materials, cutting the stencils, tracing, painting and putting everything away. It wasn’t bad at all, and I find painting to be very relaxing.

Final Prints

And here’s what they look like up on the wall. I think they make our photo collage look super fun and festive. They really add a Christmas-y feel to our living room and play well with the rest of our decorations.

Photo Collage

Prints From Right

Prints From Left

Notice the new living room furniture layout with the couch against the wall? We did some rearranging the same night we put the tree up. I’ll go over the new layout in more detail in my post outlining our indoor Christmas decorations. Stay tuned!

Are you guys planning to tackle any Christmas crafts in the next two weeks? What hand crafted decorations make your holiday extra special?

Brightest House on the Block

Remember when I told you to just call us the Griswolds? I said that for good reason. We may have gone a bit overboard with the Christmas lights this year, and we’re just a little scared to get our electric bill come January. But hey, we’re festive!

I love the way we were able to mix in Mike’s beloved colored lights in the red and green Edison bulbs that we ran across the front roof line and the strands of colored lights we used to outline the fence and bushes in our back yard with warm white lights, wreaths and garland for a really warm look. I wish we could have lined the peak of the second story roof in red and green lights too, but there’s no way either of us were climbing up there to make that happen.

Overall I think our decorations do our expansive corner lot justice and hopefully make our neighbors feel like we take pride in our neighborhood. We decorated over a few days and there was definitely some editing and tweaking involved to land on this final look. This is our first year decorating for Christmas and we knew we’d have some kinks to work out, but our thorough planning this year should make next year a breeze!

In my conversations with friends and family so far this season it seems like men have a fondness for colored lights while women like the simpler look of warm white lights. I’m a white light fan myself, but I’m a sucker for how excited my sappy hubby gets over festive colored lights, so I’m glad we were able to compromise and incorporate them both. Are you on team colored lights or team white lights? How are you decorating the outside of your home for the holidays?