It’s Christmas Morning!

Just a quick post to wish everyone a very merry Christmas!

I thought I’d share our Christmas breakfast tradition in our house – snowman and snowflake pancakes.

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Pretty easy to make using a pancake stencil, though you can probably just use a cookie cutter. Just make your batter as usual and pour into the mold.

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It should be firmed up by the time you flip it. Oh, big tip – spray the molds with non-stick cooking spray first. Otherwise, your pancakes won’t come out with a shape – they’ll just be a big pile of broken pancakes.

Have a wonderful day. And to all, a good night.

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Santa’s Coming Tonight!

It’s Christmas Eve!

All the good little children better be off to bed early tonight so that Santa can make his rounds.

In case you think Santa might need a little help finding your house, you can make him some glittering reindeer food to make sure he knows exactly where to stop.

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This project is super easy, and I think little kids will really like it. I know I did as a kid.

All I did was take some old fashioned oats and mix them with any holiday baking sprinkles that you may have laying around the house. I used red, green, and white shimmer crystals.

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Mix it all up, put it in a treat bag (or ziploc bag), and tie it up using this printable label to explain what to do with it.

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On Christmas Eve (so, tonight), sprinkle the reindeer food out on your lawn. The shiny sugar will show Santa right where to stop, and the oats are food for the reindeer to snack on while Santa is delivering your presents.

A quick note. Some recipes call for glitter, but that could harm any little critters that eat the leftover oats that the reindeer couldn’t finish. The sugar is more eco-friendly, so that’s why I used it. Not sure why a large amount of sugar is OK, but that’s what I’ve read.

I made these for my two young nieces (and mother-in-law), and we’re looking forward to spreading the reindeer food out tonight to make sure Santa stops at our houses.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas Eve full of magic and memories!

Hot Cocoa Bar with All the Fixings

My holiday party had so much going on that I had to split the post into two.

You were probably wondering what happened to dessert in my last post. Did I get so wrapped up in making the appetizers and putting together the wine tasting that I forgot about dessert?

Of course not!

Instead of making one big dessert, I decided to make several little desserts as part of a hot cocoa bar.

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I always loved the idea of a hot coca bar and having a ton of different little mix ins to customize your hot chocolate. I think planning the hot cocoa bar was the part of party planning that I enjoyed the most.

I planned to make some hot chocolate from scratch with real milk and cocoa powder (no mixes!) and have cookies, chocolate chips, candy canes, marshmallows, and some booze to let everyone have exactly the cup of hot cocoa they wanted.

I pinterested and googled to see if I was missing anything. That’s when I came across this set of hot cocoa bar printables. I thought they were so cute, so I incorporated them into the decor.

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I ended up deciding to bake cinnamon biscotti

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and gingerbread cookies. The thing about the cookies – I bought this great cookie cutter from World Market that cut cookies that were able to hang on the edge of the cocoa mugs.

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Aren’t they cute? Little hanging gingerbread stars.

I also was crazy enough to attempt to make homemade honey vanilla marshmallows. The honey really comes out in the warm cocoa.

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I rounded out the bar with mini chocolate chips, cinnamon sticks, chocolate dipped candy canes, and frozen whipped cream dollops made at home from heavy whipping cream.
For alcohol, I had some peppermint schnapps and whipped cream vodka on hand.

I was so glad I put this hot chocolate bar together. People loved it and said it was a great addition to the party.

Perhaps you can try one before this holiday season is over.

Blind Wine Tasting Holiday Party

My annual holiday party was this past weekend on Saturday night. As always, we had a fun time.

This year, we turned the party into a wine tasting event. When guests arrived, I put their bottle of wine into sweater covers, hiding the type of wine and brand from view.

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I made little hanging tags with the numbers 1-5, and randomly tied each label to a bottle.

Dan made these cute little score cards for us to take notes and put final ratings of 1-5 of our favorites wine selections.

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I had prizes for first and second place. Prizes always make parties more fun. They were small – a wine pourer and a foil cutter – but I stayed with the wine theme.

To fill up our stomachs with more than just wine, I made some easy appetizers for people to snack on before and during the tasting.

We had goat cheese stuffed and bacon wrapped dates, sweet potato casserole pouches, bruschetta (made by my dad), and an assortment of cheeses with crackers.

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After the tasting, we all took part in the Secret Santa with registries that I posted about earlier.

My gift? A moleskine planner and a neat crafty item that wraps bread in your bread basket! I loved it.

Another great holiday party for the books with these ladies.

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We ate, we drank, and we were merry.

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Holiday Mantles – My Favorites

In a previous post, I shared how our holiday “mantle” is looking these days.

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I’m loving the look with the star, chalkboard art, and rustic tree.

I was looking online at other mantles, and I thought I’d share my favorites.

I like this modern looking subway art and banner mantle.

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Fun colors too!

I usually prefer red and green to blue and white for a holiday color palette, but there was just something about this mantle that I couldn’t resist.

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Maybe it’s the contract of the blue against the white, but I think it looks gorgeous.
Last, but not least, I really like this twist on traditional.

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The warm cozy fireplace, the stockings hung with care, the evergreen garland, and that tall display of calla lilies are just gorgeous. I kind of want to dive into the photo and read a good book in that chair with the fire going and a hot chocolate to drink.

Which is your favorite?

What’s a Christmas-gram? I want one.

Our Christmas cards finally went in the mail yesterday. I say finally because I usually get them out a few days after Thanksgiving. Yes, I’m that organized…most of the time.

This year, Dan and I took a while to figure out what we wanted to do with our card. Did we want to include a photo of us? Should we design a cool graphic? Go vintage? So many choices!

One day, I sat down for a while, scanned pinterest, and checked out some holiday card websites to draw some inspiration.

I really liked this Year in Review card.

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It’s a great way to catch people up with your life, without sending a Christmas letter.

If we included a photo, I thought it would be fun to have this artsy kind of picture.

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Or this cute one of a couple laying on a winter blanket in the snow.

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Then I thought, “How would I be able to set up that couch in the woods scene in Chicago?” and “It hasn’t snowed in almost a record amount of time in the city.” Plus, I realized I’d have to spend a considerable amount of time on hair and make up if we were doing a special photo shoot for this card. That’s a lot of work. Needless to say, I moved on.

Should I just pick a regular old photo that we both look good in and just plop that into a template with a holiday message on the other side like in this card?

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Maybe a filter effect with a message over a photo would work, like it did here.

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With so many ideas, it was hard to pick one. But, we did, and I love how they turned out.

I won’t share it here yet, so people can be surprised when they get theirs in the mail. I will say that the final product was not what we intended, but we were quite satisfied with the end result. I guess sometimes the happy accidents are the best way to go.

Peppermint Chocolate Chips Cookies

The holiday baking has begun!

This was a really easy cookie to make, but I guess it was good to ease into the baking this year.

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The secret to this treat is its moistness, which comes from using candy cane Jello pudding as the base for the cookie. Following this recipe I used when making pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, I only substituted white sugar for the brown sugar.

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I think they turned out very well, especially for cookies that took me less than 25 minutes to make, start to finish.

I actually served them last week at my wreath decorating party. One of my friends commented specifically that the cookie wasn’t as dry as other cookies, and that’s when I mentioned that I had used a pudding mix in the cookie.

Try it.