Thursday, December 18, 2014

the christmas waltz {blogmas14}

My favorite Christmas song is easy. I talked about it in this post a bit. It's a song that was on the Sinatra Christmas Album from the 50's so clearly it's the best because it's Sinatra ;) It's a song my grandparents listened to while decorating their tree or baking Christmas cookies. It's a song that will forever remind me of them and that reason alone is enough to make it my favorite. 

Despite the nostalgia I associate with this song I can readily admit how beautiful the lyrics are and how warm you can feel when the music seems to just float around you. It's the finishing touch to any Christmas scene. It's not a terribly popular song and the original version is never played on the radio instead having space reserved on the original vinyl album that sits next to my record player all year long. I spoke about this before but my favorite part of this song? Is at the end of the original when Sinatra says "Merry Christmas" at the end because my grandma always answers him by saying "Merry Christmas, Frank" as if he can hear somewhere out there. I'll always think of her whenever this song comes on, I'll always tear up because of it, and I'll always wish Frank a "Merry Christmas" too.

Take a listen, I know you'll love it.



Thanks for reading & stopping by!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

gingerbread through the years {blogmas14}

I really enjoy making gingerbread houses especially with my boyfriend. It's been a tradition of ours to make one every year during Christmas time and it's always a fun date night for us. Plus, we're both rather controlling so making gingerbread houses where we can each delegate tasks that the other isn't involved in feeds our control freak flag. Don't we sound like so much fun?! Sammy is in charge of making "lawn decor" like the Christmas trees and pathways (although I did the walkway and the gate this year) as well as a wreath he always makes out of spearmint candy and I'm in charge of the windows (which I hate doing actually) and the icicles. Then we split doing each side of the roof and other random areas that need to be adorned with candy. See, we have a system ;)

This year, we were really disappointed with the house we bought from Target and I hate, hate, hate to admit it because I just love Target so much! But the icing was terrible and didn't stick or spread well at all despite how many time we zapped it in the microwave. It ended up drying up like fondant. See that snowman in the front lawn? That's leftover icing we couldn't use! We were able to roll it up into balls... that shouldn't happen. So we had to make our own icing, which was fine but we'd rather use what we pay for. We've had good luck with kits from Michael's so we'll have to remember that for next year. 

Down below are some of the houses we've done in past years if you'd like to see :)

2014 (not our best but oh well)





Can't wait to see what kind of houses you guys have built. Happy almost one week 'till Christmas, guys!! Thanks for reading!

giving is love {blogmas14}

This year, more than ever, I really wanted to give back to my community. It was important to me to be able to give back to people that were deserving and in need of some help this season. I asked Sammy if he would be interested in picking some children from the Salvation Army Angel Tree program to buy gifts for this year and he agreed to it immediately. 

The Angel Tree program was really easy to work with. I was sent a link to their virtual tree where you can filter the angels hanging on the tree by age, gender, and/or items they were asking for. We were originally choosing one child each so Sammy chose a little boy and while I was trying to choose my little girl I got very emotional looking at all the children who were in need and decided I couldn't choose just one so I picked three, one from three different age ranges. 

out shopping for our angels!

We had so much fun shopping for them! I kept thinking about their little faces on Christmas morning and how appreciative their parents would be for the extra little help. Sammy and I are lucky to still live at home with our parents so we don't have a lot of the extra expenses most adults have so we have a little wiggle room in our budget to spend on some deserving kids. It also gave me a little taste of what it might be like one day shopping for future children ;) which made me giddy. 

Sammy chose a 3 year old boy who needed clothes, superhero pajamas and asked for Mega Bloks.This little angel was a no brainer for Sammy since I'm pretty sure Sammy asked for superhero pajamas for Christmas himself. We found Spiderman ones and Sammy lost his mind. He basically bought gifts for his three year old self ;)

One of my little girls needed gloves and clothes. She asked for a pink sweater so I got everything in pink! & she asked for a Queen Elsa doll, of course, and Sammy found the last one at Target which was awesome. 

Another one of my little loves is an infant and she needed clothes and a warm blanket and then asked for a puppy stuffed animal and some soft books :)

& my third sweet girl needed clothes, socks, and a hat and glove set as well. She also asked for an easel which I'm still in the process of getting. I found a good one at Ikea so I hope to get that this weekend. 

Each of my girls got whatever toys they asked for, whatever clothing item they were in need of, and either jeans or leggings and two tops so they could get two outfits out of it. I got a lot of stuff on black friday so I was able to get more for them for my money and I think I did pretty well!

Now all we have to do is drop everything off at our local Salvation Army that serves our suburban area (or we could go downtown), unwrapped, with the angel tags on everything so they know where to send it all. 

I absolutely loved doing this, especially with Sammy, and will continue to do it every season from now on. It feels so great to give back and to think I can be a small part in making these kids' Christmases a little brighter and more joyous. I know gifts aren't the reason for the season but when you're a child there are fewer things more exciting and more magical than seeing gifts under the tree. I have a feeling most of these children unfortunately aren't able to receive a lot throughout the year so if I can add a few presents under the tree to make this time of the year more fun I'm so happy to be able to do so. 

What I love the most about Christmas is it's magic and giving gifts, and let's face it...receiving gifts, is a little part of that magic. Children shouldn't be deprived of that especially at their age when Christmas is at its most magical. 


If you're looking for a place to volunteer next year, the Salvation Army is a great organization to get involved with. They run a lot of programs throughout the year as well as at Christmas time. Where do you all volunteer? Can't wait to hear your stories!
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

buzzfeed christmas quizzes! {blogmas14}

Today's #blogmas14 prompt was to take this Christmas cookie quiz and see what the results were! I'm a huge sucker for buzzfeed quizzes so I was totally on board for this one.

This is what I got:

The description said: "You are refined, smooth, and probably the most mature of your friends. We wouldn't want you any other way."

While I agree with the description (sorry friends if you're offended haha), shortbread has never been one of my favorite cookies. I guess I always felt like it was sort of boring...but I've been known to be boring from time to time so I suppose that choice is appropriate. 

Since I can't help myself I kept going with the quizzes. Here are the other ones I did if you guys want to procrastinate from doing something else ;)

// Which Reindeer Are You? I got: Vixen 
// Which "Home Alone" Villain Should You Hook Up With? I got: some guy from Home Alone 3 and I'm pissed about it 'cause Home Alone 3 is a disagrace
// Who Should You Kiss Under The Mistletoe? I got: Tom Hiddleston & I'm disappointed because I have nooo idea who he is
// What Christmas Song Describes Your Life? I got: All I Want for Christmas is You
// Which "Home Alone" Character Are You? I got: Buzz's girlfriend...WTF (fun fact: did anyone know that the picture of Buzz's "girlfriend" is actually a boy dressed as a girl because John Hughes felt too bad using a real girl and calling her ugly. He's just the best)


What cookies did you all get? Have you taken any other fun holiday quizzes. I always stop what I'm doing to take them haha. See you all tomorrow!
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Monday, December 15, 2014

these are a few of my favorite things {blogmas14}

I am loyal and traditional to a fault. If I participate in something I really enjoy one year you better believe I'm recreating it every year to come and you also better believe I'm holding everyone in my family accountable for traditions they may have started some odd years ago even if they didn't intend for them to become yearly traditions. 

I'm a sucker for consistency and I don't accept change very well so if that means participating in 37 traditions every Christmas... so be it ;)

Here are some of my family/boyfriend/friend/personal Christmas traditions:

// my siblings and I pick out our trees with each parent at the same place every year. One is a neighborhood tree place and the other is a small petting zoo (haha)
// we watch Home Alone 800 times
// my grandparents (now my grandma) take my cousins, my siblings, and I to a movie or play as one of our gifts. Then we have dinner together and make a gingerbread house

this is several years ago and my brother is missing from the pic 
// my grandpa used to drive us around to look at lights and I hope to continue this tradition in his memory
// my siblings and I go with my Dad to Dinkel's which is a German bakery downtown, we buy stollen every year, and then go to dinner at a German restaurant

// going to church on Christmas Eve with my Dad & siblings
// my siblings and I always have a sleepover on Christmas Eve. It started when my brother and sister slept in my room when we were really young and we've continued it ever since. Some may think it's weird haha but it will be one of my most missed traditions whenever I move out

// we watch Home Alone 800 times
// we make our annual gingerbread house
// we go on our Christmas trip instead of giving material items as gifts
// we try to volunteer together every year

Out shopping for our Salvation Army Angel Tree angels :)
// I bake cookies with my boyfriend's mother and her best friend every year. They always plan to bake 8 or 9 different cookies and we always have something comforting like chili mac for lunch. It's such a fun way to spend the day!

// one of my girlfriend's and I used to go to the same park in a little downtown suburb every year to see their lights and decorations. We haven't gone in a few years due to being away from home for college but it was a fun tradition when we did it
// every year all of my girlfriends and I have a holiday party where we all bring apps and desserts and different cocktails. We have a huge sleepover and gossip, eat, drink, and laugh all night. It's very rare all seven of us get together in the same place throughout the year due to hectic schedules so this party means a lot to us as a way to spend time all together

this is from our 1st party! this year will be our fifth one :)
// my boyfriend and I, along with one of my best friends and her boyfriend (who happens to be best friends with my boyfriend), go downtown to the same Italian restaurant every year, visit with our favorite waiter, and then walk around looking at the lights and decorations

 // I watch Home Alone 800 times
// I volunteer with at least one charity every season
// I wrap gifts in the afternoon on one of my free days while everyone else is at work or school. I must have mac & cheese for lunch, a coke or diet coke in my hand, and Home Alone on the television. I did it one year and enjoyed myself so much I do it every year now. It's the little things people, the little things

// I watch all of the classic animated Christmas movies like Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is coming to town. I also try to watch White Christmas which chokes me up everytime.
// I buy the stocking stuffers for each of my parent's stockings (since they're divorced and currently not dating anyone)

Thanks again Tay & Ash for the link up! Can't wait to read what all your traditions are. Traditions are really what make the season special for me so that's why they're some of my favorite things :) Happy Monday, loves & thanks for reading. 
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Sunday, December 14, 2014

a christmas wish: to be craftier {blogmas14}

I hate to confess that I'm not a super crafty person, although I wish I was and pin DIYs onto my boards like I am. I can make most things but they never look like the coveted picture and I end up getting annoyed. It's annoying to constantly produce things that are just okay.

So, when I saw today's #blogmas14 prompt was to write about a DIY Christmas ornament I was so happy that I have one I've already made this year and actually like! I could have just posted about some of the other 27 DIY ornaments I've pinned but I wanted to talk about something I actually attempted at making.

This was an ornament I knew I wanted to make this year for a few different family members and a close friend. I shockingly didn't base it off an idea I saw on Pinterest but instead on an ornament I purchased last year from Etsy for my boyfriend's sister-in-law that said: "because someone we love is in heaven, there is a little bit of heaven in our home".

I'm always on a budget when it comes to Christmas shopping and this year was no different once I realized just how many times I had swiped my credit card this season and had to start cutting back. I bought a package of four, clear glass ornaments from Target and got started!

What you'll need:
-glass ornaments 
-colored crinkle paper

All of what I used can obviously be customized to whatever you like! I wanted to use clear ornaments because I had a gold sharpie I had recently purchased (on sale for $.75!) and have become obsessed with and wasn't sure how it would appear on other surfaces (in probably would have looked better on a solid color background...see! a sucky crafter!). I could have gone and purchased some colored crinkle paper which I used to fill the ornament with but since I'm lazy and cheap (a great combo for a crafter..) and wanted to make them that night I took some random plain paper we had at home, colored it green with one of my sketching markers, cut them into little thin strips and crinkled them myself. I used red satin ribbon I had gotten at the dollar store and tied it around the top of the ornament to add a pop of color. 

It's hard to read in the pictures... okay, it's a bit harder to read in person too... whoops. It's the thought that counts, right?

The original ornament I purchased cost me about $16 and I made four of these for a total of $7.75+tax which is a win in my book. I was happy with how these came out based on my past crafting experience so I gave my mom's hers early because I wanted her to put it on the tree and she teared up when I gave it to her. I'm giving one to my mom and grandma because we lost my grandpa this year, my boyfriend's mother and one of my best friends who both lost significant people in their lives this year. It was unfortunate how many people I could give these to this Christmas but I hope they like putting these on their future trees to make the holidays, which are always so hard without our loved ones, a little easier. 


Thanks to Tay & Ash for hosting! Looking forward to seeing what ornaments you've all made or would like to make. Here's hoping you're all far more crafty than I ;) Happy Sunday, loves. 
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gift guide {for him}: #blogmas14

So happy to be back with Tay & Ash for #blogmas14! I'm loving this link-up and all the festive talk. It's made me so excited to blog! Today's prompt: a gift guide for him.

I have some of the greatest men in my life and I love buying gifts for them but let's face it.. t hey're not always easy to shop for. I was blessed with a boyfriend who enjoys shopping (thank you, God) and so do some other men in my life but they all share the same thing in common: they very rarely buy anything for themselves. I think that's why I love giving the men in my life gifts because they rarely splurge on themselves and they all deserve it.

This guide was constructed around the type of gifts I typically get my boyfriend, Dad, and brother but I would also include gifts like tools, sportswear, DVDs/video games, cigars, etc which they would also love (I believe most men would) but they didn't fit in this collage.

Here's my guide! Let me know what you guys think.

gift guide {for him}

// Crystal beer glasses from Tiffany's 
I got my boyfriend these when he turned 21 and he loved them. They're so beautiful and luxurious because they're from Tiffany's and a steal at only $25 a glass! 
// Flannel from Old Navy
I think Old Navy has some of the best flannel for men at a great price.
// Cologne 1 & 2
I recently smelled this Chanel cologne and is it good. I need my boyfriend to wear it ;) and Polo Black is always a classic. 
// The Art of Shaving's Skin Care Kit
Anything from The Art of Shaving is very luxurious and a great gift for a guy who may not buy it for himself. They're razors are expensive but would make a great gift as well.
These are a cool gift for the man in your life who appreciates a good drink.
// Tickets (sporting event, ticket, movie, etc.)
Definitely fun to give (especially if they take you with them!)
These two are for the man in your life who is really a kid at heart which is exactly how my boyfriend is. He's so nostalgic for his childhood, which I love to indulge, and he loves him some Spiderman so I grabbed that ornament and put it in his stocking. Hopefully he doesn't read this before I give it to him on our Christmas trip this weekend. This will be the test to see if he actually reads this blog! ;)

Looking forward to seeing what you all get for the men in your life! They're not always the easiest because you can only get so many colognes and flannel shirts, right?


a photo album & a gift about nothing {blogmas14}

Today's #blogmas14 prompt is about our favorite Christmas gift and one of the first things that comes to mind is a gift my grandparents made us last Christmas. 

It's not an over the top gift in it's monetary value or in it's physical size but it is of significant importance to me emotionally because it was the last gift my grandpa worked on with my grandmother before he died last year on Christmas Eve. They had made each one of their six grandchildren our own personalized photo albums and when we all opened them up together on Christmas day we all felt his love and his presence especially strong. 
Wasn't he a handsome man? :)

While I was trying to think of one of my favorite gifts I've received, one of my favorite gifts I've ever given came to mind which I'd also like to share. 

We're a big Seinfeld family. We love the show (if there are any fans reading you would have caught the title of this post as a nod to a "show about nothing") and we love the man. So, when I found out he was coming to Chicago a couple years ago I jumped on the idea of getting tickets to his stand up for my father and my brother who are the two biggest fans I know. My mom and I split the cost of their two tickets and got two more for us. He was phenomenal. Seriously. 

Below are my brother and father's reactions (which are relatively astounding considering they're the two hardest people to get "big" reactions out of):

This was a few years ago and I can't believe how young my brother looks!

"Jerry Seinfled?!" 

It was a lot of fun to surprise them with these tickets because they've been a fan of his for so long. My  Dad watched every week when the show originally aired (my Dad actually reminds me a lot of Jerry Seinfeld personality wise) and my brother obsessively knows every line from every episode.. including the episode titles. 


I was a little late today (okay...a  lot late) but I still wanted to participate! What was your favorite holiday gift? Can't wait to read about them. Hope everyone is enjoying their weekends!
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Friday, December 12, 2014

walking in a winter wonderland {blogmas14}

Back today with Tay & Ash for #blogmas14 & today's post is about our favorite winter activity. It's so hard to pick just one because I love this season so much and everything that comes with it whether it's decorating a gingerbread house (or your own!) or picking out our Christmas tree or continuing with personal, family traditions during this time of year. 
But if I had to pick one I would pick a tradition my boyfriend and I just started last year which I've talked about on this blog a few times before. As we've gotten older, we've both decided that we don't really need anything material for Christmas anymore and instead prefer to spend our money on experiences. We still give tangible gifts for our birthdays for the most part but for anniversaries and Christmas we've started putting our money toward gifts that are more experience based which in turn create memories we'll always remember. Corny much? Still with me? I don't blame ya if you're not. 
Last year we started the tradition of picking a city in the Midwest, so we can see the cities in the part of the country in which we live but primarily because we're cheap and we can drive there and don't have to pay for airfare, that is known for having some kind of holiday display(s) or events going on. Last year we went to Holland, Michigan and we enjoyed the town even though we felt like we went a little too late into December and missed some of the events they had going on. This year, we decided on Cedarburg, Wisconsin per my Dad's suggestion (he's been there three times and loves it). I absolutely loved this little, historic town. I would recommend it to anyone. It's about a half hour north of Milwaukee making it only about an hour and forty minutes from our houses which wasn't a bad drive at all. 
Anyone who knows me knows I love to plan. So, I stalked their Christmas website for about two months before we actually went. They had so many different Christmas events going on and since we went the first weekend in December we didn't miss anything haha. For the five Fridays before Christmas they have "Festive Friday Eves" where stores stay open later, there are performances, and freebies going on. Every store and restaurant is decorated from the inside out and some had the most beautiful window displays I've ever seen. There were carolers and musicians (who all seemed to be performing to raise money for a cause which I loved), a craft fair, and so many events geared toward children and families. I have some pictures from our trip last weekend that I'll dump on all of you now ;)

We left after we were both off work on Friday afternoon and participated in their "festive Friday eve" events. We walked into a few stores but I really wanted to save a majority of them for Saturday. We had a free wine tasting and bought a bottle of mulled wine (sooo good) to bring home as a Christmas gift for some family members. Then we stopped at Sal's Pizzeria for dinner (because we're Italian and you can't take us away from our pizzerias) and I had to take a picture of my boyfriend in front of the sign because his full name is Salvatore and I know he wishes people called him Sal haha. I know it's dark but isn't he so handsome? Ugh, he still gets me. 

I got the mac & cheese pizza which is not very Italian haha but I'm mac & cheese obsessed so I couldn't pass it up. It did not disappoint. 

I mean... how gorgeous is this window?! Everything was decorated so beautifully. It really felt like an "old fashioned Christmas". 

We stopped at "Santa's Workshop" to take a selfie :) & then went back to the hotel to relax for the rest of the night because we were exhausted from working all day and then walking around the town and also because we're lazy. 

The next morning we got up bright and early, earlier than every kid in town, to be the first in line at the old theatre to see a free showing of Home Alone which you all know made my heart stop. I may or may not have planned our entire trip for this specific weekend because I knew they would be showing Home Alone on Saturday morning. Dedication people, dedication.

 It was so incredibly fun to not only see the movie in an actual theatre but to watch it surrounded by young kids! Some of them had probably never seen the movie before and were cracking up at all the slap stick humor in the movie which made my boyfriend and I laugh even harder. It was such a beautiful theatre and Santa was there which made the whole morning feel so magical. And again, it was free, which is so very magical. 

Then we went to Hefner's for lunch where Sammy got the 'Huge Hefner" which he said was like eating two Big Macs aka right up his alley. 

He also got the tator tot/fry mix because go big or go home. 

There that sucker is. 

I got a fish sandwich and tots and their custard which they're known for. It was a cool, divey place to go to which are our favorite places to go to. Love a good hole in the wall. 

We spent the rest of the day shopping, antiquing (which my boyfriend enjoys now if you can believe that) and walking around. Then we decided to travel to Port Washington, WI, which was only about ten minutes north of Cedarburg, because they were having their Christmas parade and firework show afterward.

So, we walked the town which was also super cute and historic and then sat on cold pavement waiting for the parade to start which was adorable. It was really nice to be there and feel like we were participating in a small town community. Afterwards, we were tired and hungry and decided to just grab Boston Market and bring it back to the hotel because honestly ya can't go wrong with Boston Market. 

On Sunday morning we slept in before heading into Milwaukee on our way home to stop at Real Chili (another divey kind of place) for lunch. Sammy's a big chili guy and Real Chili always gets rave reviews so he got a big bowl and I got a meatless one (which was basically beans and pasta haha but I'm not complaining) before heading home to have dinner with his family. 

This is really one of my favorite traditions of ours and I love that it's something we're both in to. Sammy always tells me he's "more of a summer vacation guy" but he goes on these Christmas trips for me which is sweet but I know he enjoys most of it too ;)


Thanks for reading, if you made it to the end! I know it was a long one but I'm a bit of a rambler ;) Can't wait to read what your favorite activities are during the holiday season! I'm always looking for more ways to be festive. Happy Friday, everyone! 
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