Posts Labeled: Winter
cool whip, cool hearts
By • Filed In: Winter

We’ve had a very mild winter this season (picture me knocking on wood as I type that), but this past Friday we got a little snow. There were even a few areas around us that had a snow day. I wish I had gotten a picture first thing in the morning, because it was actually so pretty, but that is not what I had on my mind as I was running out the door to head to work. What I really had on my mind was getting on the road as soon as possible to avoid the traffic and accidents caused by the snow. Throughout the weekend Jeff mentioned that he was craving hot chocolate. Sounded delicious! It reminds me of coming in from playing outside in the snow as a little girl to a hot cup of coco with all the marshmallows I could stuff into the mug. So yesterday we made some. The problem was, we didn’t have any marshmallows. So instead we used cool whip.

I took a silicone ice mold and filled it with the cool whip. I did some with plain cool whip and then I also made some with peppermint. I put scoop of the whip into a small container and then added a drop of peppermint oil and a drop of red food coloring. Then I just mixed it up and filled the rest of the mold with the mint cool whip, put it back in the freezer, and let it sit for about 45 minutes.

When they were frozen I just made the hot chocolate according to the directions and popped the cute heart shaped cool whip cubes out of the molds and added them to the delicious drink.

Maybe I’m just a child at heart, but they make me smile. It’s so simple, but so adorable.

And don’t be fooled by the single cool whip heart in the picture, I added about 3 more when I was drinking it!

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Introducing Mrs. Kaitlyn Stavros
By • Filed In: Weddings, Winter

This past Saturday marked the beginning of Kaitlyn Stavros (you may remember my friend Kaitlyn from the bridal shower I threw for her a few months back).  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day for Kaitlyn.  It’s been a mild winter here in Chicago, so even though the white wonderland Kaitlyn initially visualized for her wedding didn’t happen, it was a sunny,  50 degree day.  Her day was

I’m biased considering Kait is one of my best friends, but I know I’m not the only one who sees Kaitlyn as the most amazing looking bride!  It all started with hair and makeup.

Kait purchased clip in hair extensions from Sally Beauty Supply to thicken and lengthen her hair.  After they were clipped in the stylist trimmed them a bit then curled everything.  The extensions held the curls all night long!  She finished off her look by pinning back the shorter pieces rounding her face back and to the side.  

Now for my favorite part… THE DRESS!


Deep sweet heart neckline + A line  + 100% heavy silk fabric + beaded belt = dazzling!  After the ceremony we tied it up into a french bustle.  I don’t know the designer, but I’ll  be sure to ask Kait when she returns from Maui.  I’ll get back to you 😉


Kaitlyn went the traditional route with flowers.  The bouquets were timeless with a touch of winter sparkle.  Each bridesmaid bouquet had a dozen red roses with silver glittered berries and a pine cone.  Kait had white roses, white hydrangeas, and the same sparkle touches as the bridesmaids.


I don’t have pictures of the centerpieces at the reception, but I was lucky enough to grab one on my way out.  They look great on my mantel :) Thanks, Kait!  At the reception, half the tables had a dozen red roses in a low rectangular vase and the other half had a taller piece with roses, white hydrangeas and a few greens.  They were topped with branches holding three candle votives.  I loved how they added height to the room but guests at tables were still able to see and talk to everyone.

Before the dancing began, Kaitlyn presented Vince with a little surprise.  Since they didn’t have the snowy wedding they had hoped for, Kaitlyn brought winter indoors with a groom’s cake of Vince and Kaitlyn on a snowmobile.  

And of course, we danced and sipped the night away…

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Rose Bowl Party
By • Filed In: Cocktails, Football, Party, Recipes, Winter

I grew up visiting Mad Town at a  young age.  My dad is a UW alumni and every year he would take Cort and I to a Wisconsin football game.  Then, as I got older, Brian and some of my best friends attended Wisconsin, pretty much making me a part time student there. I visited Madison enough that it became my second second favorite college, behind the Iowa Hawkeyes, of course.

 Visiting Brian his freshman year

Event though Brian went to bed quite angry yesterday because of Wisconsin’s loss, we had a great time during the game munching on some yummy snacks and delicious drinks.

Beef Brisket Sandwiches

A couple of nights ago I slow cooked a beef brisket and since the butcher only sold them for 6 pounds, we had plenty of leftovers.  So yesterday I threw the left overs in the crock pot with a little bit of water, beef bullion cubes, and some Colgin liquid smoke (which is sooooo yummy!).  We served them with buns and there we had beef brisket sammys.  Here’s how I originally made the brisket…

What you need for a 3 pound beef brisket (since mine was 6 lbs, I doubled everything):

1/4 C flour, 1 package dry onion soup mix, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cracked pepper, AAAAND the two secret ingredients that make this brisket so delicious…

…an oven bag and 3-4 fluid ounces of liquid smoke.

Here’s what you do:

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Place the oven bag on a roasting pan (I made my own with a cookie sheet and a wire rack cooling sheet).  Sprinkle the flour on the bottom of the oven bag then place the meat on top of the flour.  Put all the dry ingredients on the meat and finish off with the liquid smoke.

Close the oven bag with the closing tie and puncture the top of the bag with two fork holes.  Slow cook it in the oven for 4-6 hours (I cooked my 6.5 lb brisket for 6 hours, so if you have less meat take it out sooner).

 A perfect winter meal that will leave your whole house smelling delicious.

 Brian’s Madison Martini

Brian went off to the store to grab some rolls, buffalo wings, pasta salad, and came back this…

 …vodka, extra dry vermouth, fresh strawberries, and strawberry schnapps.

Brian Stewart took it upon himself to create his own signature drink.  This is what he did…

Muddled strawberries and put them in a shaker with ice.  He added two parts vodka and one part vermouth and strawberry schnapps.  If you like strawberries, you’ll love this drink.


So we didn’t have to leave the game to make a new drink, we made a pitcher for everyone to make a drink from.  Isn’t the Bucky wine glass so cute?  My mom got them for Brian and I to drink from on the night of our rehearsal dinner.

Want one of your own?  Find your team wine glass here.

Chili Cheese Dip

This is a popular one, so you may have already seen this before.  But in case you haven’t, now you know what you’ve been missing out on.  Here’s all you need…

 …Hormel Chili (I like it without beans), soften cream cheese, and mexican mix shredded cheese.

Spread the soften cream cheese on the bottom of a shallow oven safe dish.  Next, layer with chili then the shredded cheese.  I like to top it off with some chili powder.  Put it in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes and serve with tortilla chips.

More Red, White, and Badger Fun

I gathered all the Wisconsin stuff we had in our office and put it up on our mantel.  It was Brian’s idea to use our the chalkboards from our Christmas card to show some more UW spirit.  My mom had gotten the plates and napkins for Brian for Christmas.  If you want some of your own, search for your team here or here.





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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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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.

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 😉

Kali’s Christmas Card
By • Filed In: Christmas, Projects, Winter

Michelle Knox, from I Do Invitations by Michelle, is aaaaamazing for anyone looking for adorable invitations, stationary, any paper goods.  She did just about everything for my wedding… save the dates, invites, programs, menu, rehearsal dinner invite and menu, even signs for my bathroom baskets.  Here is some work she did for my wedding:


Michelle so fun and easy to work with.  Everything is done over the computer.  I send Michelle an email, tell her what I’m looking for, and in one day or less (often times that same night!), I have a lovely sample waiting for me in my inbox.

So when it came time to thinking of what to do for our Christmas card, Michelle was the first thing that came to mind.  Check out what she came up with…

After spending hours on Pinterest looking at photography (just check out my photography board and you’ll see), I felt the need to do something creative.  So I bought wood plaques from Hobby Lobby (both for under $8) and spray painted them with chalkboard paint.

I first used the Krylon spray paint and after 4 coats, I still wasn’t satisfied.  I wrote on it and when I went to erase, it wouldn’t all come off (as you can tell from the background in the other spray paint picture).  So I then bought the Rust-Oleum from Home Depot.  It was much better!  The fun thing is I can reuse the boards for just about anything since it’s erasable.

A Very Glittery Christmas
By • Filed In: Christmas, Winter

Is anyone else as shocked as I am that it’s already December? One minute I’m trying to decide what to be for Halloween, and it seems like the very next minute I’m busting out all the Christmas decorations! In the words of Joey from Blossom, “whoa!” Even though it completely snuck up on me, I still 100% enjoyed putting up all the decorations. Every year I drag out the big bins and get really excited at the things I forgot I had. It’s kinda like Christmas morning, but with decorations instead of presents! This year I decided to keep the color palate a little more on the neutral side. Well I guess tons of sparkle and glitter isn’t exactly neutral, but more so than bright green and red.

I stuck mainly with silver, gold, and champagne colors and added a little splash of green. All the glitter and mirrors make for a very sparkly mantle, dontcha think? The tall jar on the left is an apothecary jar that I filled with mini ornaments, and the Happy Holidays sign is a fun long glitter filled sign that I am thrilled I get to use this year. It’s kinda awkwardly long and curvy so I didn’t have a good spot for it last year. I love my candle sticks, but they are the same height, so I set one on an upside down ramekin dish to make it seem taller than the other.

Another decoration accessory I used was my cake stand. I swear I use my stands for everything but cake. Which is fine I guess, considering the less cake I have around me the better it is for my waist line. Mine are from Williams-Sonoma, but I don’t think they sell them anymore. Here is a similar set.

I used a silver pine tree candle, a white glass candle votive, and a silver glittery bird and just placed them on a bed of greens from our tree. I had a little box of mini glass stars laying around so I threw placed a few of them on there as well. It’s a simple, yet pretty centerpiece for out table.

Winter Wonderland Bridal Shower Recipes
By • Filed In: Party, Recipes, Winter

Yesterday I shared some simple ways to decorate a winter bridal shower.  I hope you’re hungry because today I’ll be sharing all the delicious recipes we served at Kaitlyn’s shower.

I threw this bridal shower for my college roommate, Kaitlyn.  Two of my other Hawkeye roomies, Ashley and Karen, threw it with me.

From left to right, Ashley, Kaitlyn, Karen.

When we were deciding on a menu, we couldn’t help but think back to the days we lived with Kaitlyn.  It was a common occurrence to see Kaitlyn sulking around the apartment after a night out the day before.  Her go-to hangover foods were saltines and hawaiian rolls.  These memories served as inspiration for our sandwich bar.  Karen had assembled turkey meat and roast beef on hawaiian rolls.  We then laid out all the yummy sandwich fixings such as pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, mayo and mustard, allowing guests to create their own sammy.









The adorable toothpicks are Martha Stewart brand.  Karen picked them up at Joann Fabrics.

Along with the mini turkey and roast beef sammies, we also filled pita pockets with chicken salad that Karen got from my all time favorite grocery stop, Whole Foods.  You can spot these in the background of the pic to the right.

Also from Whole Foods, Karen got Spinach and Feta Orzo Salad.  In it was orzo, red onion, feta, spinach, balsamic, and some olive oil.  Something anyone can whip together with those ingredients.


I so wish I took a picture of this next item, but completely forgot since it was hidden on the kitchen counter in the crock pot.  I am obsessed with my crock pot.  Any recipe using a crock pot takes minutes to prepare and everything you put in comes out juicy and tender.  Nothing ever lets me down when using the crock pot, and these Crock Pot Cheesy Potatoes that Karen created, definitely didn’t disappoint:


Regulation size bag frozen shredded potatoes
4C Mexican Mix Shredded Cheese (mix 2 1/2 C into potato mixture, reserve 1 1/2 C for the top, after you’re done mixing it up)
1/2 C Melted Butter
1 Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup (low fat)
1 regulation size tub of Sour Cream (16 oz – also low fat)

Mix and stir everything together in the crock pot.  Slap the leftover cheese on top and cook that shiz on high until it’s hot (about 2 hours).


For appetizers, we put together Caprese Skewers.  All you need are toothpicks (again we used Martha ones), fresh basil leaves, cherry tomatoes, and fresh mozz.  Assemble and drizzle with EVOO and balsamic vinegar.  Top it off with some coarse salt.  I love to make these in the summer when tomatoes are at their freshest and basil leaves are growing on my deck.  But what a perfect app in the winter with Christmas colors!

The other appetizer Karen made was Mrs. Kirk’s Spin Art Dip.  I salivate thinking of spinach artichoke dip.  It’s one of my go-to apps at restaurants.  So, I’ve had my fair share of spinach artichoke dips.  Mrs. Kirk’s Spin Art Dip, is the best I’ve had.  You MUST try!


1 10 oz. pkg frozen, chopped spinach – thawed & squeezed dry
2 blocks cream cheese, softened
1 13 oz can of artichokes, chopped (not marinated, tin can works great!)
½ C sour cream
1 pkg (2 C) finely shredded mozzarella cheese
½ c. shredded parmesan cheese
4 cloves chopped garlic (2 TBSP)
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 bag tortilla chips
1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Thaw spinach under hot water in strainer.  Once it is thawed, squeeze it dry.
3. Drain artichokes and chop them into small pieces.
4. Soften cream cheese in large plastic bowl in microwave for about 30 seconds (until you can mash with a fork).
5. Combine all remaining ingredients except about  ½ C of the mozzarella cheese.
6. Put in baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes, until it is bubbly around the edges.
7. Add the remaining mozzarella cheese to the top of the dish and continue to bake until melted (about 5 more minutes).
8. Serve with tortilla chips, enjoy!
To wrap everything up for dinner, I used leftover tulle from the banners I made to roll up the napkins with the plastic silverware.
Last but most importantly, a signature drink!  I created this delicious punch recipe for the night.  I got the idea from Paula Deen, but switched it up a little bit to brew this Raspberry Sherbert Punch.
2 quarts raspberry sherbert
2 liters ginger ale
1 (46 oz.) can pineapple juice
lemon slies
lime slices
raspberries (fresh or frozen)
light rum (optional)
1. Let sherbert thaw in room temp for about an hour to an hour 1/2.
2. In a punch bowl add the sherbert, ginger ale, and pineapple juice (include rum if you wish) and stir together.
3. Top with lemon and lime slices and raspberries for garnish.

Note the size of my punch bowl. I had to split the recipe in half and make 2 batches. If you have a larger bowl, you can probably mix all the ingredients together in one batch.

The girls decided the punch needed a kick. That's when we added a real punch to the original punch recipe ;)