Posts Labeled: Christmas
Lucite Trays by Erin Condrem
By • Filed In: Christmas, Furniture, Gift Guide

Cort and I were spending Christmas Eve at our Aunts house when I spotted this adorable tray of hers…

They tray was on a hand painted stand and held plates for appetizers and a few glasses for people to grab.  I snapped a photo of it real quick and was planning on asking Aunt Cyndi where she had gotten it.  I needed to get one for myself!

Wellllll,  a few hours later I was opening my gift from Aunt Cyndi and what do I see?  My own personalized tray!!!

Lucky Cortney received one, too.

Another adorable touch (that I don’t have a photo of) is the backside of our trays.  In a light gray font is a word collage of “Christmas 2011” so we’ll always remember them as a Christmas gift from our thoughtful Aunt.

So for any of you out there wanting your own personalized tray for yourself, you can find the information HERE.  I started browsing myself and found you can even have a photograph of yours be the background.  Or, you can choose your own designer theme that Erin Condren provides.

Aunt Cyndi used hers as a serving tray, Cort is using hers for a coffee table tray, and I’m currently using mine for display.  Something important to know is these trays are waterproof and food safe!  You can serve food and drinks directly on the tray.  I know Brian would love one to hold his wallet, car keys, watch, and loose change.  They would be great place to catch jewelry on your dresser, or hold soaps and bath salts in your bathroom.  There are so many possibilities!  Here are some examples given on Erin Condrem’s website.  I think my favorite is the first one… maybe it’s the Patron’s fault.  I <3 tequila.


I have plans to purchase some for future wedding and baby shower gifts.

Did anyone else receive a Christmas gift you think we’ll love?  Please share!

Miss Teacher
By • Filed In: Christmas, Gift Guide, Glitter & Sequins

A very special little girl on Jeff’s side of the family loooves to play school. What little girl doesn’t, right? I know I did. I can remember taking turns pretending to be the teacher with my friends and sister, loving pointing to my pretend chalkboard and and using my pretend teacher materials. Buuut enough about me, this post is about Avery. So we decided to play up to what she likes, and get her something fun for Christmas. A chalkboard. But not just any chalkboard, we painted her name on it!

It’s a little bigger than it looks in the picture. It was about 2 feet high by 3 feet wide, and it even has one of those little trays for the chalk at the bottom. But let me tell you, it is crazy hard to find chalkboards these days. With whiteboards and dry erase markers all the rage, bigger chalkboards are rare. Even with the whole chalkboard craft craze. So we ended up finding one on ebay, man do they really have everything. Here is a similar one but in green. Oh and when I was looking for one, I found these posted on ebay as well. They call them vintage. Really?! Vintage? Ummm I 100% remember using them when I was in school….soooo apparently I’m vintage now. Weird!

Anywayzzz, here is how I went about painting Avery’s name onto the chalkboard: I grabbed a couple bottles of glitter paint and letter stencils from Michaels, and a few paint and sponge brushes that I already had. Then I punched out the letters to coordinate with her name and cut them out.

I opted for the darker of the two paint colors since it would show up more. Rubellite was the name of it. I taped down the stencils and then busted out my foam brush and started dabbing on the paint. Before it was dry I pulled of the stencils. I was pretty much just using them for a guide, since my handwriting straight up stinks. Once I pulled them off I used a regular thin paint brush to fill in the stencil gaps and add more paint. When it dried the glitter looked a little thin, so I added a few more coats. I wanted this thing like the little girls in Toddlers and Tiaras, full of glitter.

After the first coat

After four coats

And here is a phone pic of Avery enjoying her new chalkboard.

It’s kinda hard to see her name in this pic. But I think it’s safe to say that she likes her new chalkboard. It looks like teaching is in her future. If not for real when she’s all grown up, at least of the imaginative type.

Christmas Recap
By • Filed In: Christmas

So i know Christmas already feels like ages ago, but I guess it’s better late than never to post some pics from the day of red and green. Christmas Eve started off at our aunt and uncles house. There were presents, and food, and cocktails, oh my! And of course lots of time spent laughing and chatting with family.


Just look at those cookies! They look like they’re right out of a professional bakery! Nope, they’re not. Our aunt makes them every year. And every year I vow to learn how, still haven’t though. Procrastination at it’s finest people …or at least lack of time. Yeah, we’ll just call it lack of time.

Kal and I playing

with our cameras.

After our aunt and uncle’s house, we headed back to my mom’s where we donned our annual Christmas pajamas (as mentioned in this post). Unfortunately we didn’t get a group shot of us wearing them, tear. Apparently we were too excited to wear them and forgot. We’ll have to remember to grab one next year.

Christmas morning we woke up and had our traditional brunch, and then Jeff and I headed off to his family’s house. There was more family, food, and fun. There are more little kiddos in his family, and it is always fun to watch their reactions as they plow through opening their presents.

I hope you all had an equally amazing holiday as we did!

Baked Brie Muffins
By • Filed In: Christmas, Recipes, Wine, Winter

These Brie Muffins are paraaaa, paraaaa, paradise!

I got the idea when I was cleaning my mini muffin tin after making peanut butter cups.  I was assigned to bring appetizers to a Thanksgiving dinner and was thinking about what to bring.  Cheese is ALWAYS on my mind, and while I was scrubbing away, I thought about using the tin to make miniature baked bries.

These are the ingredients you’ll need:

Crescent roll dough

Brie (I used the cylinder shaped ones so they’re already in the correct shape)

Fruit preserves/jam (I used raspberry, which seems to be everyone’s favorite, and orange fig)


Note: To fill the whole tray, I used two cans of crescent dough and two rolls of brie.



Here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut the brie into 1-2 inch thick chunks.

Flour your countertop and a rolling pin.  Layout the crescent roll dough and roll it, forming it to one giant square.

Then cut into individual small squares.  Line each muffin tin with a dough square.  Insert a chunk of cheese, top it with jam, and wrap the remaining dough over the top.

Brian’s inner iron chef came out and decided to fancy up the appearance.  He twisted the dough on top rather than just folding it over.  I have to admit, his turned our prettier.

Pop them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Since I made these for Thanksgiving, I’ve made them two other times.  My family has been raving about them.  So, I’m making them again tomorrow for Christmas Eve.  They’re the perfect winter finger food.  Now add a glass of wine along with them… now it’s really paradise!

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Christmas Traditions
By • Filed In: Christmas

I really can’t believe that Christmas is only 4 days away. 4 days people! That’s crazy soon! I guess it’s time to finish up that last minute shopping and start thinking about continuing those Christmas traditions. We have a few in our family that we still continue, even though we are all grown up. Yes, Kali and I are among the sentimental, hard to break routine types when it comes to Christmas.

Every year on Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember, my parents got the whole family a new set of pajamas. Something about getting to open one gift and wear it right away before the big guy came seemed so special. Any other day pajamas were just pajamas. Cozy, yes. Special, not really. But on Christmas Eve, the pajamas we got were our Christmas pajamas. Then when we woke up and were opening our gifts, we would proudly pose with our new loot while wearing our new pj’s. Just in case you wanted to start this tradition for yourself, I’ve compiled a list of some very cute and comfy pj’s that would be perfect for the eve of Christmas.

Clockwise from top left:

Nordstrom, Gap Kids, Macy’s, Gap Kids, Nordstrom, JCrew

Another one of our traditions happens when we are putting up the Christmas tree. Every year growing up, my mom would give my sister and me a new ornament to add to the tree. The idea was that once we had grown and moved out, we would be able to take our ornaments and use them on our own tree so we didn’t have to start from scratch. When I was little I loved getting the new ornament, but I really didn’t realize how thoughtful the tradition was till I was a bit older. My sister and I still haven’t taken all our old ornaments, even though we have moved out. Like I said, we can’t bear to break routine just yet. But my mom still gets us an ornament every year that we do take home to our own trees. Now each year when we look at my moms tree, memories come flooding back. Each ornament is a memory for a specific year!

Clockwise from top left:

Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, Crate & Barrel

The next tradition has to do with our stockings. The very first thing we do every single Christmas  morning is open our stockings. We don’t even go over to shake the presents under the tree. Nope, we go right to the fireplace, grab our stocking, and sit down on the sofa. Then one by one, we open the tiny little packages that are individually wrapped inside. And yes, we still do this. What? Who says we have to grow up? My sister, her husband Brian, me, and Jeff all still spend the night at my moms on Christmas Eve. No, the presents and stockings are not as out of control as they were when we were little, but we still love the tradition. It’s a nice way to ease into the craziness that can be Christmas day.

Clockwise from top left:

Pottery Barn, Horchow, Neiman Marcus, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn

And then once the stockings and presents are opened, we all sit down to a wonderful Christmas breakfast. It’s not over the top extravagant, but it’s the perfect way to spend a little immediate family time before all the parties and events of the day. Usually we have some sort of breakfast casserole that can be prepared the night before, fresh fruit, some bacon or sausage, and orange juice and mimosas (now that we are all adults). Sounds delicious right?!

So what are your holiday traditions?

Have Yourself a Glitter Little Christmas
By • Filed In: Christmas, Glitter & Sequins, Winter

Along with a metallic Christmas, comes a glittery Christmas.  I love it and so does my vacuum cleaner.  But, it’s worth the mess.

I filled my three jars with silver and gold glitteryness.  For two I just dropped in ornaments.  For the third one I cut small strips of glitter ribbon (with wire edges), wrapped them around my finger, and in they went.

I also added some to my hurricanes with flameless candles.

Do you see the pine cones on the first picture?  They’re left over from Kaitlyn’s winter bridal shower.

Another simple thing I did was purchase letters from Hobby Lobby to spell Noel and glitter blasted the life out of ’em!

This proves that you don’t have to be super crafty to create some fun decorations for the holidays!

Merry Metallic!
By • Filed In: Christmas, Glitter & Sequins, Projects, Winter

At this point, I need all the wintery decorations I can get considering it’s nine days before Christmas and Chicago (of all places) hasn’t seen snow yet!  It’s NOT beginning to look a lot like Christams outside.  Therefore, I’ve taken it upon myself to shimmer up my house so it does begin to look a lot like Christmas inside.

This first image might look a little familiar…

I told ya I’d be able to reuse the embroidery rings from the wine party!  All I did was spray paint over the lace fabric Cortney and I had created for the wine party.  I used metallic gold and silver then topped them off with gold and silver glitter blast (my recent obsession).  I fell in love with the metallic that I ended up not using the white.

I painted one side, let it try for a couple hours, then painted the other side.  I then let them dry overnight in the garage before bringing them inside and hanging them in my windows.  Sorry for the horrible lighting, I should’ve taken the pictures during the day.  Too bad it’s dark outside when I get home from work :(

Since we’re on the topic of metallic spray paint, I also took two metal reindeer and splashed them with a silver metallic finish.

Can you tell I’ve been on a spray paint kick lately?  I love it!  It makes something old very new in no time.

Winter Wreath
By • Filed In: Christmas, Projects

I’ve been all about the Christmas decorations lately, as evident here and here. This year I decided to get all creative and make my own wreath for our door. Ambitious, I know. Jeff and I live in an apartment in the city, so I didn’t have to worry about weather proofing it. And that meant I had more options. So after brainstorming for a bit, I opted to do something a bit different and use sweaters. Yeah it’s a strange choice for a wreath, but just go with it. Here is the finished product in all its glory.

I went to my local Goodwill and bough a few big white and cream sweaters in all different textures, and then picked up some fun goldish glittery ribbon from a craft store. Then I busted out my scissors and cut away. I cut out what seemed like a million sweater rectangles. Seriously, that was the part that took the longest. And at the last minute I decided to use some burlap I had left over from the wine party tablescape. Here is my enormous pile of sweater and burlap rectangles.

Ok so it doesn’t look that enormous in the picture. But I swear it was a lot of sweater! Anyway, once I had all the pieces cut up it was time to work on the base for the wreath. I actually had planned on using wire that I bought from Home Depot, but it turns out it was way more flimsy than I thought it would be. So I ended up just using a wire coat hanger left over from some dry cleaning. I pulled at the bottom of the hanger and shaped the corners so that it was a big circle. Then I untwisted the top part where the hook of the hanger is. Once that was untwisted I used pliers to pull one side back on itself to make a loop and snipped the other end with wire cutters so it didn’t stick out too much.

Once that was all done, I was ready to string my sweater pieces onto my wire hoop. I took one piece at a time and folded it in half so it was a square. Then I just pushed the non-looped wire end through the middle of the sweater square and pushed it all the way to the other end. I just kept doing that, alternating sweater types/textures, burlap, and ribbon until it was full. Then I fit the end of the wire back into the look and fixed the wreath so that you couldn’t see any wire.

All that was left was to hang it up! It really would have popped more if we had a fun bright colored door. But seeing as I don’t thing the condo association or our landlord would appreciate it if we painted it a fun yellow or blue, we have no choice but to keep it the standard white. Oh well. How about another look at the finished wreath hanging proudly on our door.

I love the little touch of sparkle! Oh and and the last minute I added a star. It’s just a simple wooden star ornament that I tied to the wreath with clear thread (the kind you would use to make a bracelet). I actually got them at Pier 1 a couple years ago to use as gift toppers, but thought one would be cute hanging from the middle of the wreath.

Anyone else make a wreath out of interesting materials?

Hard Candy, Easy Eating
By • Filed In: Christmas, Projects, Recipes, Winter

It’s candy making season!  Every winter before Christmas we get together with our mom and aunt to make homemade hard candy.  It all started when our Grandmother would get together with her bridge group each week.  Every December they took a break from playing bridge to make this Christmas candy recipe.  My Grandpa said the mint flavors would help with his sore throats while battling a winter cold.  For us on the other hand, it helps battle our sweet tooth!

Here’s what you need (for each batch):

2 cups of sugar

2/3 cup Karo Syrup

½ cup water

flavored oils (about 1 tablespoon, less for the strong minty flavors)

food coloring

a stick of butter, room temp

candy thermometer


clean scissors

Time!!! Each batch takes about 45-60 minutes. We made 10 batches on Sunday and it took us about 7 hours.

The picture on the right shows the flavors of oils we used.  We started with lemon then worked our way through anise/licorice (Cort’s fav), root beer, wintergreen, lime, lemon lime (by mixing both oils together), butterscotch, cinnamon, peppermint, and the new one we made this year, almond (I love it!).

 Here’s what you do:

Bring the sugar, Karo, and water to 300 degrees with a candy thermometer on a medium low heat, stirring constantly.  This can take about 45 minutes. Make sure the heat isn’t too high or it will burn. Burnt candy = not so tasty.


Once the candy thermometer reaches 275 degrees, it’s time to butter up!  Take the room temp butter and spread it everywhere!  This is my favorite part.  You need to put butter on anything the candy will touch including the counter, the platter you’ll pour it on, the scissors you’ll cut it with, and your hands. The more the better!


Once the candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees, remove the pot from the heat.  Add the flavored oil and the food coloring of your choice.  Since we made lemon first, we choose yellow.

Pour the liquid candy onto the buttered platter.  As soon as it starts to set just a bit (about 4 seconds) remove a section (pull or pour it onto the counter) and cut with buttered scissors into small pieces onto the buttered counter top.  Careful… it’s VERY hot and will burn! You have to work very quickly so the candy doesn’t harden into one big blob and so it doesn’t burn you. Pretend you are playing the game hot potato as a kid, by barely handling it as you quickly pull with your hands and snip with the scissors.  As it starts to cool it becomes much easier to handle with your hands.

Continue with as many flavors and colors as you wish!  Once we got into the groove and became comfortable with our method and flow of the process, we would begin to boil a new pot once the first one reached 200 degrees.  This left enough time between batches but also sped up the process.

This candy making is something you definitely do not want to do on your own.  It’s a good excuse to get family and friends together, get messy, and leave with yummy candy for yourself and as gifts.  Fill a short jar with the candy, finish off with a ribbon, and it’s an instant holiday gift!  My short jar, however, is on my desk at work.  Yup, I’ve been popping about 7 candies in my mouth throughout the day… tis the season for sugar!


I’ve even thought about spray painting the jar lid white for a clean look.  If you don’t want to buy jars, you can use old pickle jars!  Peel off the label and paint the lids.  Here are some ideas I found on Pinterest:



If you like the last picture, use pickle jars and paint the lids white.  Find wooden spindles at Hobby Lobby for the base.  Paint those white and glue them on.

Now that you know one of our favorite holiday traditions, take a moment to comment on your favorite family tradition!  I’m always looking to start new ones 😉

Sweet Simplicity
By • Filed In: Christmas

I think the sentimental decorations are the best kind of decorations. You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that when you look at them they bring back a memory or make you think of someone. Clearly I’m all for the glittery and new decorations (as seen in this post), but I’m also a complete sucker for simple homemade ones.

Working with kids often means handmade cards, notes, or pictures that accompany gifts. And sometimes they strike a chord and I just have to keep them. A few years ago a student of mine drew me two winter themed pictures. They were amazing pictures, so I kept them. The problem was they just sat in a drawer at work. So this year I decided to bring them home and put them up as decorations.

I love the sweet simplicity of them. No frills, no fancy lettering, and not even a ton of color. Just a cute snowman and the city of Chicago with snow falling.The student who drew these actually made one very similar to the Chicago pic for my cousin, Brad, last year. He was off fighting for our country in Iraq and a lot of my students made him Christmas cards since he couldn’t come home.  I was explaining to them how our soldiers couldn’t see their families for the holidays and that they didn’t have any snow where they were, so this student drew Brad a picture of his hometown with snow. It was so thoughtful. And now every time I look at them I think of those students.

Another new decoration has to do with the flea market….shocking, I know. I am always drawn to the tables full of old prints or post cards. So I decided to collect some for each holiday. It’s much easier to find Christmas postcards than other holidays, but I love sorting through them all and picking out my favorite. Then I just got a frame with two pieces of glass that I could sandwich the postcards in (instead of your typical backing).

I adore the postcards, but you can’t even see my favorite part. The back! I purposefully got frames with transparent backs so you could turn the frame over and see the handwritten notes from long ago.

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the postmark dates are Dec 17, 1909; Dec 22, 1911; and Dec 22, 1923! Pretty crazy right!? What’s really crazy is that stamps were only one cent!

So how about you guys? Any sentimental decorations? Any antiques or decorations passed down through the family?