Category / Celebrations

holiday party snacks

December was my month to host book club. It’s my very favorite month to host because A) you’re guaranteed a good turn-out (no one ever misses the annual white elephant exchange) and B) the holiday decor and theme is so much fun to play with. Major photo-taking fail on my part (I only grabbed a couple) but hopefully the links below help you get the full picture.

I’m always on the hunt for new party food ideas that can work ANY time of year (and have been tried and loved by someone firsthand), but I included a couple the other night that were a bit more specific to the season. Here’s a rundown of the couple iPhone pics I managed to snap, and links to where I found the recipes – I would make all of these things again!

Cranberry Brie Bites – I loved how festive these looked! The red and green and the snow-like sugared cranberries made these so pretty to set out! Recipe can be found here. I love her entertaining/food mantra of, “we eat with our eyes first!”. Wise words!

cranberry brie bites


Crock Pot Hot Chocolate – This might have been the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. And for good reason – condensed milk, 1% milk, and heavy cream…um yeah, this was thick and rich and amazing! Plus, I love anything that my Crock Pot can manage for me. I added some marshmallows on candy canes as stir sticks, and Bailey’s minis for those who wanted an extra stir-in. The recipe can be found here.

crock pot hot chocolate

Spinach and Cheese Croissants – I didn’t have time to get a pic of these, but there are some great ones if you follow the link to the original recipe here. These were a super-easy thing to prep ahead of time, and who doesn’t love a warm, flaky crescent roll?

Tortellini Skewers – I don’t have a link or a photo for these, because they’re so simple. I pre-cooked some cheese tortellini (the red and green kind to be festive!) and skewered them onto sticks with black and green olives, slices of pepperoni, and grape tomatoes. Another colorful red and green option for a holiday app!

Cranberry Water – Yet another photo fail, because this SIMPLE idea is so pretty! I used a clear beverage dispenser and filled it with water, added a splash of cranberry juice to tint it light pink, and floated a bag of cranberries on top. Instantly fancy and festive, but still refreshing and oh-so-simple.

Hope everyone is enjoying their last few days before the holiday…bon apetit!

Christmases past…


One of the many fun things about keeping a blog is the ability to go back over time and reference previous days, weeks, months, and eventually years. Sometimes I like to randomly look up what we were doing on this day a year ago, or go back and read a bunch of our “just married” stories.

In other cases, it’s fun to see things you tried (and either love or hate now), how your style has evolved, and what you’ve learned. This week for me, it’s been Christmas decorating. 🙂 It was harder to get very “into” it when we had a shoestring budget and were renting so it didn’t quite feel like our home anyway, but it’s still fun and heartwarming to look back on the Christmases we’ve celebrated during our marriage and remember what “life” things were going on in the background, behind the photos.

2007 – Our first married Christmas. We were new to Des Moines and thrilled to be relocated from Chicago that summer in our first Des Moines apartment. We had actually moved from Charlotte, NC, to Chicago, to Des Moines all since the previous Christmas, so we were stoked to be staying in one spot for a bit.

2008 – A more stressful year, having lost my job in late October and working some ad-hoc jobs while searching for something more permanent. At the same time, Page was worried at the time about keeping his own employment status. Still in our first Des Moines apartment.

2009 – First Christmas in our townhouse. While we were still renting, this was a great move and we loved having a bit more space. It felt more like a house. I had found a home with a new employer by this year and Page was starting to get excited about making a move of his own, and fortunately on his own timing. In short, life was very good this particular year and we were more at ease about everything. This particular post made me realized I have improved my photog skills in recent years, just a tad! Ha!

2010 – I specifically remember not doing as much this year for decorating. We bought a new “main” tree and did it up, but I didn’t decorate any other rooms. This year was a busy one for us both with our freelance jobs on top of everything else, and I think there just wasn’t a lot of free time. After the first couple years of marriage involving one or the other being unemployed, we felt behind in our savings and we were in overdrive mode to save for a down payment, so we worked what felt like every waking moment. When there was a spare minute, we were completely lazy and wanted to do nothing but lay on the couches and stare at the one tree we DID manage to put up. We both had a hunch that this might be our last Christmas in a place that wasn’t “ours”. We had secretly made a goal to make 2011 “the year of the house”. We just barely squeezed in under the wire…

2011 – Just days after moving into our home (closing on the 1st and technically moving “in” on the 8th) we mustered the motivation to at least put up the tree and even hung a box of ornaments we were able to find among the piles. I’m so glad we did. I read this post now and I can sense how totally exhausted we were and just ready to be in a put-together house after a few months of not. I remember taking a lot of crap for our frustration haha – people told us just wait until you have kids and have to move! I can’t imagine. It was enough just being Type As that had to have it all unpacked, organized and decorated RIGHT NOW, working and running second jobs, and trying to squeeze in the handful of holiday parties and get-togethers on top of it all. There were lots of wee morning hours unpacking, catching a few shorts hours’ sleep, then going into the office. But we were so damn excited to be in our house and loved every minute of our non-traditional Christmas season that particular year.

It all makes me appreciate the calmness that has encircled us in 2012. What a difference a year makes in having a little time and energy to plan ahead and enjoy the process of pulling this together. Already excited to plan the 2013 version of our house’s holiday decorations — next year it will include the basement! Woo hoo! 🙂

deck the halls: the second floor

We spend a good amount of time on the upper level of our home, so it made sense to me that it be decorated for the season as well.

I kept it simple with a little silver tinsel tree in our bedroom. This is the only tree I did this year that is “colorless” although I could see adding some fun chartreuse ornaments later on to match our throw pillows.

For now, a set of silver/gold balls and my “calendar” ornaments hang on this tree. I started collecting this ornament from Crate & Barrel the year we were married and have made a point to purchase one each year since and include a wallet-sized photo from that year. I hope they don’t stop making these any time soon, but I figure if and when they do, I can switch to a new style and mix and match.

For Page’s office, a funky green frame of he and his best friend and both dads taken at Christmas in 2006 is one of the fun xmas things to break out. Page had been asking for a skier nutcracker for years and I finally found a reasonable one last Christmas so Page was excited when I pulled him out of the box.

No office is complete without a tree. I love how these ornaments are so very Page, from skis and dirty martinis to golf balls and gambling. 🙂

I’ve never been a huge fan of blue Christmas ornaments, and maybe I’ve never paid attention before, but it seemed the deep blue hue was everywhere this season. Who knew Wal Mart was on to the Manolo blue craze? 😉

Love, love, love my blue bows!

Thanks for stopping by!

deck the halls: the first floor

I have had so much fun decorating for the holidays this year!

To keep this from being too lengthy, I broke it up into two parts. Welcome to our home for the holidays…

For me, it all starts with the entry! I want guests to feel warmly welcomed and festive when they come to our home during the holidays. To begin, I took advantage of a seventy-degree day in November (whaaat?!) to hang our outdoor lights.

New construction doesn’t give us much to string on, but between the pillar and our baby landscaping, I tried to make it work. I added a potted tree next to the bench and embellished the “S” wreath I’d bought with a few picks before adding it to the door.

Won’t you come in?!

On the inside of our entry, I swapped out the glass vase with some wintery white branches, mixed in some blingy branches I found at Pier 1. I love this new jingle bell doorknob swag – the ribbon matches our wall color perfectly.

For the kitchen, I set out a few of my favorite things. The vintage apron hanging on the pantry door is a gift from my bestie…

…and the hand-painted twelve days of Christmas ornaments are one of my very favorite things to unpack each year. Page’s only decorating request as I dragged in one tub after another was that after the lit pumpkin had been on the island all fall, he wanted something else there that would still light up and we could leave on at night. Check…done!

To finish up in the kitchen, I strung some ornaments on fishing line in the window and finally got my hands on some Mrs. Meyers “Iowa Pine” hand soap. It smells like Christmas every time I wash my hands. 🙂

As you might know by now, our kitchen/dining area/living room is all one big room, so you turn around…

…and you see the dining area…

…still working on doing something new and different for the table….

One of my favorite details that is new this year is the swap-out for this “Yes, Virginia…” print. EDITED: I finally found the link to this and other Christmas prints by this artist – check it out here!

A few more details…

I wrapped the canvases I painted in gift wrap for the season. This was a whole big thing – I had about three other ideas that didn’t pan out…sometimes you just have to settle for Plan D. 🙂

Thanks for taking a peek – back tomorrow with the second floor!

Girls Night In: Fifty Shades of Grey Party

Since it was all anyone could talk about, our book club decided to read the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey. For me, the jury’s still out on the book – it was certainly intriguing and I was turning the pages trying to find out more about the mystery man, Christian Grey’s, past. I didn’t think the writing was all that wonderful, and some of the elements of the book were repeated ad nauseam to the point where it got a little annoying. All in all though, I had to give the author props for a very different storyline from anything else I’ve been reading, and the story certainly kept me reading.

At the very least, the book sets a great stage for a themed party!

We decided to combine our monthly book club gathering with my friend, Christine’s, 28th birthday, invite a few extra guests, and really have a par-tay!

It worked out well that Page was out of town, so the ladies came to my house this weekend for a silly and fun get-together that involved good eats, sweets, cocktails, and some PG-13 entertainment thanks to a fabulous consultant.

The color scheme was of course, shades of grey, except for the occasional “red” (room of pain!) goodie…

…and of course some coy nods to details from the book. I was floored by Christine’s idea to skewer “Forbidden Fruit” on zip ties. 😉

To get the party started, we offered some non-alc Ana cocktail (sparkling water and cranberry juice) and two renditions of a summer cocktail that I’ve heard referred to as both “strip and go naked” and “summer brew”. The pink on the left ( we named it “Twitchy Hand Cocktail”) is vodka, lemonade concentrate, and beer. The gold on the left (labeled “Lip Biter Cocktail”) is tequila, limeade concentrate, and beer. You can make much smaller batches of either than what you see here – for every cup of liquor, use one can of concentrate and four 12-0z cans of beer. (I tripled this for each of the cocktails.) It was a cost-effective way to keep the drinks flowing for 17 ladies well into the night!

You know it’s a fun night when you forget to take pics once your guests arrive. Thanks to my friend, Julie, for managing to snap a quick hostess pic…I’ll have to snag some “people photos” from other guests!

Whether it’s your turn to host book club, or you’re just looking for a fun reason to get the girls together, encourage your guests to read the book, stock up on all grey party supplies, pour everyone a cocktail, and let the laughter and girl talk begin!

Cheers! 🙂

A pink and gold Oscar party

pink and gold Oscar party |

It was so fun to host a girls’ night Oscar viewing party, and this year, in our new house.

pink and gold Oscar party |

While I had hoped that my 52″ blow-up statuette could greet guests outside, the wind just wasn’t working with me. So in he came to the front hall…

pink and gold Oscar party |

…along with this wreath that was flapping in the wind and falling apart…it ended up on the bathroom doorknob. 🙂 Weather annoyances aside, I was happy with how the glittery girlyness came together.

pink and gold Oscar party |

To drink, I made “silver screen punch”, a recipe I found on the official Academy Awards website. It’s champagne-based, with some raspberry vodka, pineapple juice and blended frozen strawberries. It went down pretty easily and straws made it disappear that much faster! I love these little stripey straws – you can find them all over Etsy. I bought some gold washi tape to make little flags for them and busted out my recycled frappucino bottles for serving.

pink and gold Oscar party |

I am still perfecting the jello shot…for the Super Bowl we made a couple batches and I used more Knox. They were almost chewy they were so stiff, but it made for easy cubing and pretty presentation. I backed off on the extra gelatin this time – but almost too much – after sitting out a bit, they were too soft. Note for next time – one and a HALF packets of Knox for the perfect consistency! I was trying to work in gold and shimmer anywhere I could…I remembered powdered food coloring from a cake class I took at Michaels forever ago. I dry-brushed some on the shots with a tiny paint brush to “class up” the jello shot to be Oscar-appropriate hehe.

gold dusted jello shots for a pink and gold Oscar party |

A party is no good without sweets and I made sure there were plenty. Pink cotton candy, gold buttercream mints, pink rock candy and gumballs, and “popcorn” cupcakes (vanilla with yellow-tinted marshmallows) in pink striped popcorn-style cupcake liners. Julie even took a picture of the table and the hostess. 🙂

pink and gold Oscar party |

"popcorn" cupcakes for a pink and gold Oscar party |

While they are somewhat time consuming, these “popcorn cupcakes” are super easy to make – I used a boxed mix (Duncan Hines French Vanilla – what else?) and a canned vanilla frosting. Tear mini marshmallows in half and stick them back together at weird angles – twist them and pinch them as you go – to create “kernels”. Roll the frosted cupcake tops in the marshmallow kernels and then use a small paintbrush and a few drops of yellow food coloring in water to brush on a little “buttered” tint. And if you must add bling (duh!) brush a little gold glitter food coloring on top for extra sparkle…it’s hard to capture in a photo, but the “popcorn” on these was festive and shimmery!

To balance out the sweet was the salty…pink popcorn boxes with buttered popcorn and some take and bake pizza to round out the “movie night” menu.

Let’s not forget some Oscar bingo and our own ballots!

pink and gold Oscar party |

And the winner is….