Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holidays & Cookies

I am already so heavy into vacation mode, I don't know how much you'll be seeing me around here the next 2 weeks!  I imagine I'll stop in, but honestly I have full plans to relax and not be on any sort of strict schedule.

It's amazing, the sun is shining today for the first time in what has to be at least 3 weeks.  Yesterday, after umpteen days of gloom I said it either needs to be sunny or snow.  I would definitely prefer the snow for Christmas, but there is still time, and the sun is better than what we've been having.

Sunday was our annual cookie day and it went off with great success!  We perfect our methods more and more each year, and become more efficient.  I think this was record time that we finished the baking in this year, which left plenty of time to hang out.  There were SO many cookies.


We have our tried and true we do every year, and then we throw a new one in the mix.  The new one I tried this year were these coconut macaroons.  They were super easy, and well received!  When you bake cookies do you stick with your tried and true, or do you try new things each year?

I want to wish you all a Happy Holidays.  I hope everyone's is filled with plenty of time with family, too much food and sweets, and good times!


Friday, December 19, 2014

High Five for Christmas Vacation

I can not even begin to tell you how ecstatic I am that after Saturday I will officially be on Christmas Vacation for 2 weeks.  Yes, you read that right, 2 full weeks.  I know that with the holidays in the middle of each week it's probably going to go by in a blur, but it doesn't even matter, I'm so ready!

The last week before the holidays is always crazy insane busy, and this year proved to be no different.  Here is a few moments from my week.

1.  As of Monday I officially finished all of my shopping.  It felt so good to get that last thing taken care of.  And not only is all my shopping done, but everything is now wrapped and under the tree.  I'm ready Christmas, bring it on!  I think this is the most timely I have ever completed my shopping and gotten things wrapped.  Pretty good considering I didn't get started until after Thanksgiving!

2.  I actually had some time on Monday night to start to go through my "new" camera's manual and start to learn some things about it.  I've only had it since June!  I mean sometime I'll figure out how to actually use it.  I'm hoping I'll have some more time to devote to that over my winter vacation.

3. Parties, parties, parties!  This week at work as been jam packed full of parties.  On Wednesday we put on a big party where our students performed for their friends and family, today we have a holiday party for our students, and tomorrow is our staff holiday party.  The parties are a lot of work to pull off, and they have provided some great deep sleep due to the fact that I am just wiped out at the end of the day!

4.  Even with all of the hustle and bustle of the week, I love sitting every morning and every night with my Christmas tree all lit up.  It's so relaxing, I'm going to be sad when it's time for it to come down!


5.  Sunday is cookie day!  I'm so excited for our annual cookie day with the all the girls.  I mentioned this day last week, and I look forward to it every year.  We will spend all day drinking mimosas and baking way too many holiday cookies!

Enjoy whatever is on your agenda this last weekend before the holidays, I plan to!  See you next week!

Linking up with
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THE GOOD LIFE BLOG

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday in the Home

So I really wanted to share some other ways I have injected holiday into my home, and that is what I am here to do today, kinda.  See I don't remember the last time we saw the sun here in Chicagoland, seriously, can't even remember.  And that combined with my poorly lit house, combined with my less than mediocre photography skills, leaves just a few photos to share how I'm injected the holidays into my home.

I've already shared my chalkboard, winter mantel, and tree.  But there are other little ways I like to infuse our home with a little holiday sparkle.  One is my DIY ornament wreath.  I made this last year, and I'm absolutely in love with it.


I used a command hook and hung it on the mirror above my couch that is right across the living room from my tree.  There are a million and one tutorials on Pinterest for these ornament wreaths, and they are seriously so easy to make.  All you need is a foam wreath, a bunch of plastic ornaments of varying sizes which you can find for cheap at so many places.  Target, Walmart, The Dollar Store, Hobby Lobby, just to name a few.  I picked mine up last year at Garden Ridge, which has now become At Home.  Once you have your ornaments and your wreath you just need a hot glue gun, and off to work you go.  I just kept filling things in as I went till I was satisfied with how it looked.


Another great way to sprinkle the holidays throughout your home is to create little vignettes, on your end tables, TV stand, anywhere you have a bit of open space.


I just realized as I was editing these photos that my poor Nutcracker has half a mustache missing.  I have had that thing since I was about 9 or 10 years old.  The white tree I picked up at Kohl's a few years ago, and the coasters were a TJ Maxx score this year.


I love the combination of the wood with the white script and snowflake like designs.  Coasters are such an easy way to bring in a new element of design, they are cheap, they come in a set, and you actually get some use out of them as well.  I have seen these wood coasters all over Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and HomeGoods.  Ones with designs, as well as plain ones.  If you are feeling crafty you could always pick up the plain ones along with a few paint pens and go to town with your own designs.


The pine cones are another easy DIY I completed years ago, and have used them ever since.  I just picked up a huge bag of pine cones at Michaels, but if you are lucky enough to have access to ones around you you could just gather them from outside.  I just spread them all out on a tarp and gave them a dusting with some silver spray paint, and while they were still wet I gave them all a healthy sprinkle of glitter.  Such an easy way to add a little extra sparkle this time of year.  I have so many of them that I can use them in multiple places throughout my home, I just use different glass containers to coral them in.

A few other things I like to do, that I didn't get a chance to photograph due to our London like weather, are easy things like switching out the dish towels.  You can find holiday towels in every store this time of year for just a few bucks.  And adding a few holiday themed throw pillows to the couch.  I picked some up at Target a few years back.  Every holiday season, if you time it right, they have there holiday pillows on sale for like $10 a piece.  I love quick easy, and in expensive ways to dress up my home for the holidays.

What other ways to you like to inject a little holiday in to your home this time of year?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blush, Sequins & Boots

I realized that ever since Martin and I decided to cook more, and eat out less often, my fashion posts have also dropped off.  That is because instead of going out for dinner on Saturday night, most likely we have been cooking, and I have been wearing my pj's, not too blog worthy.

With the holidays quickly approaching there are more and more opportunities and occasions for us to go out, aka look presentable in front of people.  Though I've thoroughly enjoyed our bout of cooking at home, and hope to keep it up as much as possible.  I love knowing exactly what I'm eating, and putting into my body, and I have had fun discovering all of these new meals that I've never made before.  Though our grocery bills are definitely higher then before, we are still saving money by not eating out multiple times each weekend, that sure adds up quickly!

This past weekend we went out to a new restaurant in town to celebrate a friends birthday, and this is what I wore.


I picked up this sweater last year, though I'm almost loving this years version more with the high low hem.  I'm loving blush as a holiday color.  I paired it with one of my favorite pairs of leggings.  I love that these have a zipper and pockets so they look like pants, but really are just as comfy as true leggings.


And then there are my new black boots.  I found these at Target last week and they were exactly what I was looking for, the perfect mix of casual and dressy.  I love that they are flat, but the gold zipper up the outside adds something special, and they come up just over the bottom part of the knee.  The best part, not only are they pretty comfortable, they are also on sale this week!  You can bet I'm going back in to get that sale price!


Sweater| The Limited (Similar)
Leggings| Jessica Simpson
Boots| Target

Friday, December 12, 2014

High Five for Friday

Hey everybody!  Today's High Five for Friday is going to be short and sweet.  We are in the middle of our annual Teach A Thon, aka students take a ton of lessons and all times of the day.  So essentially my goal is just to survive until Saturday evening!  Today I'm sharing 5 things I love about this time of year.


1.  Making Christmas cookies.  Every year a group of us girls gets together and spend all day drinking mimosas and baking dozens and dozens of cookies, I look forward to it every year!



2.  Watching Love Actually.  I know it's not a traditional holiday movie, but it is my favorite feel good movie that you have to watch this time of year!



3.  Putting up and decorating my tree, because I love transforming my home into winter wonderland.



4.  Picking out the perfect presents for everyone on my list.  I love getting people things that they'll really like and enjoy, things they wouldn't typically get themselves.

5. Drinking hot chocolate out of Holiday mugs, because really it makes the hot chocolate taste better.

Crate and Barrel

Do you love this time of year too?  What do you love most?  Happy weekend, see you next week!

Linking up with
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THE GOOD LIFE BLOG

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

. . . everywhere you go!  I love putting up my Christmas tree!  Now usually I'm all for a real tree, in fact I am all for a real tree.  The smell, it's just amazing.  But for the last several years I have gone with an artificial tree, mainly because it just works best with our space and time.


I always need something tall and skinny for the space that we have in this home.  There isn't a great place for a big tree, a definite must in any future home!  I also am terrible at remembering to water the real trees, not so good for those real trees.

Ever since I've had my own tree, which started for me my first year out of college, I've always gone the matching route for my tree decor.  I think it has something to do with the trees we had growing up.  We always had two trees, and the one on the main floor was the pretty coordinated tree.  It had white lights and matching ornaments, it was so pretty.  Then on another floor we had the kids tree.  It had colorful lights, and all of the ornaments myself and my siblings had collected or made over the years.


Here you can check out our tree in context.  You can see the need for a skinny tree, otherwise it takes all flow out of the room.  I stuck with the same colors this year as I did with my winter mantel, white, gold, silver & a little rustic mixed in there with the burlap garland.

I will let the pictures do the talking.










Hope you enjoyed my tree!  Next week I plan to share some of the other decor I use to bring the holidays into my home.  Until then, what is your method with your tree?  Do you stick with a color theme?  Do you have coordinated ornaments?  White lights or colored lights?  Share what makes your tree sparkle!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tour Through Blogland


Hi everyone, today is my stop on the "Tour Through Blogland!"  I don't know if you've seen it going through blogland for the last several weeks, spreading the blog love from one blog to another.  It's a great way to learn a little behind the scenes about some bloggers you may already know, and also a great way to discover new, or at least new to you, blogs.

I was more than excited when Leslie from The Martin Manifesto invited me to be a part of the tour. You can check her stop of the tour out here, but really you should just go check her out.  I love reading Leslie's posts, and it doesn't hurt that she's super down to earth!


What am I working on right now?
Trying to get organized so I'm not always blogging about everything at the last minute!  Every weekend I say I'm going to get a few posts done so I'm not doing them every night after work and in the morning when I get up, and that NEVER happens!  I hoping that after the holidays, with some time off from work and I get a jump start on the new year and come up with a better game plan.

How does my work differ from others in it's genre?
Does it?  I don't know?!  I just write about the stuff going on in my life, from making over our home to my current favorite breakfast.  I like what Leslie said, "It's different because it's mine, no two blogs are the same. . .and that's what's great about blogland."  I totally agree, everyone has there own style and personality that comes across in their writing and that's what makes reading so many different blogs fun and exciting.

Why do I write/create what I do?
I started this blog at the beginning of last year, mostly from the encouragement from my husband, but also because I needed something that was all mine.  A place to encourage and inspire me to stick with the things that I love to do in life.  Being a ballroom dancer sounds fun and glamorous (and it can be!), but it can also be super stressful and incredibly time consuming.  Having this blog makes me make time for my other passions, DIY, crafting, fashion, and all that good stuff!

How does my writing/creative process work?
I always set minimum goals, if I can post at a minimum of 3 days a week, I'm happy.  I have a few set things that help keep my on track like my High Five for Friday posts, and my monthly Favorites posts.  I also set out to include at least one fashion post a week (obviously that hasn't happened lately!)  Other then that I just tackle what's current in my life, and usually when I'm beat at the end of the day trying to keep my eyes open.  I always end up spending WAY more time on graphics, or surfing the web for certain products then I intend.  ALWAYS.  I consider it a victory If I get my post completed before I have to absolutely crash, if it doesn't get done that night, I'm at it first thing in the morning to wrap it up and get it posted, which is what I'm doing right now!!

Your next stop on the tour . . .
(just click on the photo or link to visit)

http://www.madeintheshadeblog.com/
Made in the Shade

Make sure to check out Becky's blog, if you haven't already!  It's always great to make new blogging friends and connections, at least I know that I like it!  Whether you have your own blog or not, say hello, leave a comment, because frankly we all love them!

Much thanks to Leslie for featuring me on her stop of the tour, I'm super flatter that she chose me as one of the stops!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Seasonal Elegance: Winter Mantel

One of my favorite things is getting the Christmas decorations up around the house.  I don't go too crazy, and do too much.  I concentrate on our living room, since that is where we spend the most time.  I'm excited to share my winter mantel today.  I first built my mantel last year at this time, just because I was sick of not having something to decorate with the holidays and seasons, but most of all I was sick of not having a place to hang stockings!  The important things!


This year I stuck really neutral with my colors, white, gold, and sliver.  I was going for an elegant rustic look.  Not too rustic, just a little!  Most off of my decor has been snagged in previous years after Christmas Sales.  I love stocking up on new Holiday decor then, and then when you bring it out next year its like a brand new treat, some of which you don't even remember having!  I kept my DIY Window Pane Mirror up there, and then just built around that with what I had.


The tree was from Pottery Barn last year.  The only thing I'm bummed about is it's supposed to light up, and I should have tested it right away when I bought it, but I didn't, I just tucked it away in storage.  Only one of the lights lights up!  At least it still looks pretty!

My glitter reindeer was an easy DIY.  I just took a black canvas, some glue, glitter and a template and went to town.  The hammered gold candles were found last year at Target on clearance after the holidays.


My gold trees are from my Pier 1 days.  Right after college I worked at Pier 1 for awhile, and it helped my home decor grow tremendously!  My gold reindeer I picked up at Micheal's last year for just a couple of bucks, I saw them there again this year.  And my awesome fluffy white trees where an after Christmas find at Crate and Barrel years ago.  They have a slight shimmer to them, I love them.


I tied in down below with a few things on either side of the TV.  It's easy to stick with groups of 3, just make sure you vary the heights of the items you mix together and it will look great.


Do you tend to stick with a theme when decorating?  What's your method?  Up next, the tree!

Friday, December 5, 2014

High Five For Friday

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the holiday season is in full swing!  Though these few weeks leading up to Christmas are generally a few of the most busy and crazy weeks of the year, they also hold some of my favorite things, traditions.  There are so many things I look forward to during this season, and after the crazy hustle and bustle of the next few weeks Christmas arrives and it's a week of calm and enjoyment, which I am totally looking forward to.

Here's a little look back at my first week of December.

1.  We traveled over Thanksgiving to visit family in Tennessee, the long car ride got me hooked on a new series, thanks Netflix!  I am heavy into season 1 of Friday Night Lights, and I just can't wait to watch the next episode!  Just what I need, another TV show with many seasons to plow through!  I don't know how I missed getting onto this one for so long though!

2.  My Christmas decorations are all pulled out.  Not all put together, but at least all pulled out.  I love decorating my home for the holidays, there is nothing better then the glow of the Christmas tree lights.  You can check out my holiday chalkboard here.  My game plan is to finish up my decorating this weekend so I can share it with all of you next week!


3.  Once the Christmas decor is broken out that also means it's time for Bath & Body Works Balsam candles.  My favorite!  It makes your home smell like fresh Christmas trees, it is the BEST scent this time of year.  I totally stocked up on these last weekend and have already had them burning many times.


4.  I am proud to say that I am about 75% done with my Christmas shopping.  I think that's pretty darn good, considering as of Sunday I had 0% of it done!

5.  Tomorrow night one of my good friends is having a Holiday party, and I am super excited about it.  Friends, drinks, food, and of course Christmas music!

Bring on the holidays!  I hope you enjoy whatever you have in store for this weekend, see you next week!

Linking up with
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Hearty Winter Breakfast

This time of year I lean towards eating something warm for breakfast.  One of my favorites is good old fashion oat meal.  When I was little I would always have the instant oats out of the package, maple and brown sugar for me, always.  But ever since college I have taken to making the oats from scratch on the stove top.

Recently I have come up with a little twist to my oatmeal, not just to change it up and add a little variety, but also to start the day with a meal packed with protein and nutrients.  It fills me up and helps me to get a good start on the day.  I don't know about you, but for me breakfast is absolutely mandatory in my book.  I am very particular about when I like to eat my breakfast.  Not first thing in the morning when I get up.  I like to get up and have my tea and get started with my day, and then I will sit down to breakfast a while later.

These hearty winter oats have been an easy to go for me on most mornings lately, and I imagine it will stay that way for the winter months to come.


Start with preparing a serving of rolled oats.  My favorite are Trader Joe's Rolled oats, they come in a large light blue bag.  I just use a small saucepan with 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of oats.  Bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally, let it simmer until it reaches the consistency you desire.  Once the oats come to a boil it usually only takes a few more minutes.

While to oats are cooking I pop about a 1/2 cup of frozen berries in the microwave for about a minute.  Above I used blueberries, but my favorite are raspberries.  Really you can use any fruit your heart desires.

Once your oats are done, transfer them into your bowl.  Dump in your defrosted fruit, juices and all.  And now it's time to load up the oats with the rest of the good stuff.  The best part is there is no need for any exact measuring, and you can easily tweak the ingredients to your liking.

I add in a little pure maple syrup, a few shakes of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla extract, a sprinkle of some chia seeds, and top it off with some almond slices.  I really like the texture that the almond slices give to the oats, it makes it seem a little bit more substantial.

Finally, for that added protein I throw in about a teaspoon of protein powder.  I have been using this one by Nutribiotic.  It's a rice protein powder, made with no chemicals or dairy.  I found it at my local Vitamin Shoppe.  I'm typically not a big fan of protein powders, but I've just been sprinkling in a little here and little there, and I like the little added boost and staying power it gives the meal.

Once you have everything together in the bowl, just stir it so it is all well blended together and enjoy!


What's your favorite winter breakfast?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

November Favorites

I seriously feel like I have no idea where November went.  Usually I'm pretty good throughout the month at noting and recognizing my favorites, but I came to the end of November and was thinking back on it and it just felt like such a crazy busy month, it was almost hard to remember.

This month my favorites round up in a little different.  No beauty items this month, instead they are all what I will call lifestyle.  I spent the majority of November jumping back on the clean eating bandwagon, and spending A LOT of time in the kitchen.  In fact, Martin and I just ate out for the first time in 3 weeks on Sunday.  Which is kinda huge for us, because usually on our weekends you can find us eating out nearly everyday.  And we technically didn't eat out, we ordered in, same thing really though.


I have talked on and off over the last several months about my quest to give up coffee.  It has been a huge struggle for me, mainly because I just love the taste and flavor of my morning cup.  When I did the PCOS Diva Jumpstart program at the beginning of the month coffee was a no no.  So I didn't, not once.  In fact I haven't had a cup since November 9th.  Not having the caffeine is no big deal at all, my one cup of morning coffee was the only caffeine that I was drinking, but I was desperately missing the taste.  I'm not really a tea person, but I was trying to drink some tea, and it was ok, but just not quite what I needed.

So I did a quick Google search for coffee alternatives and discovered Teeccino.  It's an herbal coffee, and it totally does the trick.  It's definitely not as robust as coffee, but when you brew it it looks like coffee.  I just add a little dash of my creamer, and its perfect.  And because it doesn't have caffeine, I can drink it any time of day.  It's perfect for this cold winter weather when I always want something warm.

They have a store locator on their website as to where you can find it, my Whole Foods only carried the large bags of grounds that you could brew in a coffee maker.  But a local health food store carried the tea bags in more flavors so I picked up the Hazelnut and Vanilla Nut flavors, I love them both.  So much so that I just ordered larger boxes straight from the Teeccino website, and I order the Chocolate Mint as well, I'm excited to give that one a try.

Next on my favorites list, my citrus squeezer.  It has been a life saver in the kitchen.  Cooking and meal planning has been one of my favorites of November that I hope to keep going as long as possible, hopefully forever!  But with my current schedule it sure does take a lot of time, and then there is the clean up!  Martin and I first used a citrus squeezer in a cooking class we took together when we were first dating.  I think we went out the next day and bought one.  So many times recipes call for fresh squeezed lime juice or lemon juice, and doing it by hand can take forever, and it's a messy pain.  With this squeezer you are done in seconds flat, and clean up is a breeze.  I recommend getting what is technically the orange squeezer because you can fit all types of citrus in it, and then you only need one.


And rounding out my favorites are some essential oils.  At the beginning of November I received my Young Living Starter kit.  I haven't dived full force into using the oils yet, but there are a few that I've really grown to like in the few weeks that I've had them.  I've been starting every morning with a glass of warm water and about 2 drops of the lemon.  They say that warm water and lemon first thing in the morning helps to wake up the digestive system, then once you've had that you can go to your coffee or tea.  I can tell a difference in the way I feel, and I like the taste of the lemon oil so much better then fresh squeezed lemon first thing in the morning.

The second oil I've really fallen in love with is a blend of oils called Purification.  I run this in my diffuser all the time.  It helps to purify and cleanse the air which I love with all the cooking we've been doing lately, and the fact that we have two cats.  Our home doesn't always smell the freshest to me, and this helps pretty much immediately.  I have already ordered bigger bottles of both of these!  I'm excited to get into more of the oils and figuring out all the things they can do.

What were you loving in November?