Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review

My family and I, if not on New Years a few days before, always recap our year and recount our trials and tribulations (mostly tribulations and great events!). It has been a year of great opportunity and blessings and I can't believe the year has come to a close. Here's a few events that made my top list:

My sister and I chaperoned my little sister's first high school formal

My friends and I got to sing in front of the Goodman Theatre and meet Glee's Matthew Morrison (aka Will Schuster!)

My family and I took a two week trip to Colorado. We hiked in the mountains, explored canyons, ran a river and took a 7 hour train trip through the mountains. 

We had a girls day and got to have drinks on the 16th floor of the Trump!

We got to see Chicago in Chicago!

I completed my student teaching. Job search: here we go!
I got myself in shape and feel better than ever. I know that every day counts and looking and feeling my best is oh so important. 

I started my blog in May and I absolutely love it. It's been a fantastic place for me to share my thoughts, take risks, relax, and spend time meeting new people. I appreciate every single one of you who read, comment or email here on the blog. It means the world and I cannot wait to keep this going in 2012. I love reading what you all have to say and I can't even say how much it means that you share that same courtesy with me. 

Happy 2012!! I wish you all health, happiness, joy and peace this new year. Be safe tonight and enjoy ringing in the new year!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Who remembers this?

This was our backyard last year! It was beautiful, it was was that wonderful Snowpocalypse! Just thought I'd bring up the images to showcase what we had in comparison to absolutely not a single inch of snow.

Can that be a New Years gift? Seriously I'd love it!

Be back later with my recap of 2011!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Closet Cleanse

Ok, we all know that with New Years resolutions come new goals. One of mine is always to clean out my closet to know what I need the most and purge what I haven't found use for as of late. I always give my donations to a box at our church that gives to people who need clothing. Who else cleans out their closets for the New Year?

I'm trying to stick with basics and accessories as much as possible, so here's one of those lists on Pinterest with the 50 best items every woman needs:

Who has these basics? Anything you'd love to have that you're missing? The One Hundred by Nina Garcia also has the 100 items that every woman needs. Honestly, it's a great read and a great way to figure out what you really NEED in your closet.

Happy Closet Cleanse!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Source: via Susan on Pinterest

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have wonderful, blessed day with family and friends (fun fact: the word merry means blessed so when we say Merry Christmas, we're actually saying Blessed Christmas, which I think is pretty beautiful). Have a very Blessed Christmas! ~Susan

Friday, December 23, 2011

From my family to yours

Happy Holidays!

I hope you all have lovely, safe holidays with family and friends wherever this Christmas finds you. Slow down, have fun, and remember all the fun reasons for this season (and enjoy a few presents!).

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

This is a thought that crosses my mind throughout the holidays and also is going to be my mantra for the New Year. I think resolutions are not always followed, so if I take this one phrase, I think I can apply it to many aspects of my life.

Over the holidays, we tend to stretch ourselves in a thousand different directions. Again, we need to pick what's important.

We can do anything we want, but we can't do everything. This is something that I really, really need to work on: starting with the holidays and into the new year.

What about you? Do you feel this way? Maybe this can help all of us enjoy the holidays a bit more!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The art of the note

Christmas is almost here! I love the spirit, the food, the family, the giving, and yes, I enjoy receiving as well. This is my public service announcement to all:

Remember to write your thank you notes!

I can't emphasize this enough. I'm sure you ladies already do this, but maybe pass it on to someone who wants to start. 

My mother was recently at a tea with some older ladies who said that people in "our generation" are no longer writing thank you notes and do not know if people in their lives even receive, yet alone appreciate the gifts they give. To me, this was very sad. We grew up writing thank you notes for everything we received, even if it was as small as someone coming over and giving us a piece of advice! To this day, we still all write thank you notes and I cannot imagine not writing them. A handwritten note says a lot about you and shows the person that you really care. 

We all tend to receive plenty this time of year and many times are notes tend to go to the wayside. Let's not let that happen! I'm sure we all have thank you notes that are our "go to," whether it's personalized stationary, or fun holiday themed cards. 

Here's a few I'm loving this year (caution: I like Paper Source thank yous...)

Ok, I'm (pin)spired! There's just something about writing a note that never gets old to me. I absolutely love writing them because I'm truly thankful that someone thought of me so much to give something to me. I know that you all probably feel the same.

 Happy four days before Christmas!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Homemade Marshmallows

Thanks to my cooking pal Mrs. Ina Garten and her Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook, I was able to make these unbelievably delicious homemade marshmallows! They're absolutely delicious and will have you dying to have a big cup of cocoa and maybe even a cookie to go with it!

Here's what you do:

You will need:

  • 3 packages of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of light syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • Powdered confectioner's sugar for dusting
Combine the gelatin and1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment and let it sit while you make the syrup.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves (the syrup will be clear then). Raise the heat to high and cook the until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

This is what the syrup looks like before it dissolves

Syrup is dissolved and at 240 degrees
With the mixer on low, pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high and whip till the mixture is very thick (shown below). It takes about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Dust an 8x12 non-metal baking dish with powdered sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture in the pan and smooth the top. Dust it with powdered sugar on top and let it sit uncovered overnight or until it dries out. Waiting is the hardest part!

Finally, you can cut them up into squares and enjoy!

They're so good! They're the perfect topper to your favorite hot holiday beverages and after tasting these you'll never want to go back to the store bought kind!

Is there snow where you are this holiday? CHICAGO NEEDS SNOW please! Mother Nature, please be nice and send some our way!


Weekend Highlight (a bit late!): Holiday Decor

Happy Christmas Week everyone! I'm a bit late on my posts this week, but that's because the holidays are in full swing! I hope everyone is getting into the spirit, like we are here at our house! We finally were able to decorate completely and dust off the old decorations that my mom has collected over the years, most notably her collection of all different Santas and Nutcrackers.

Aren't they cute? We love all of them and they're each unique. We all have a different favorite (I love the skinny Santa and the Santa on the goose!)

We also FINALLY put up the tree on Saturday morning, which I have to say is one of my favorite trees we've had in years. This picture doesn't do it justice, but it really is a gorgeous tree!

Lots of holiday baking has been taking place. We've got the dough chilled and ready to roll for sugar cookies (YUM!) and chocolate cookies! I can't wait to get started!

How was everyone's weekend?

A little later I'll share my favorite treat to accompany your favorite hot holiday beverages!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friday's Fancies: A Bit of Sparkle

a bit of sparkle...

Happy Friday! {av} deemed this week about sparkle, which I'm absolutely loving this winter. I actually have included sparkle in my past few fancies with my main pieces, so this week, I decided to be a bit subtle and add sparkle in the clutch. The boots are not only festive, but oh so cute, and this blouse with black skinny jeans just seems wintery and fun! I wore out my sequined clutch out a few days ago and got lots of compliments, so if you can find a sequined clutch, you'll love it! It's so fun for holidays and days and nights out.

 Hope you all have lovely weekends! I'm headed out and about with friends from out of town and then we're putting up our tree! Can't wait! What are your weekend plans? I hope you all have safe and lovely weekends this weekend before Christmas! (Wow that went fast. I should keep knitting!)


Thursday Thoughts

Being grateful: it's something at this time of year that we often forget. Heck, many times we are giving, but we're being greedy in our giving. Trying to out-give other people or even out-give our own selves. We have to be grateful for our ability to give and be grateful that we have people in our lives to give gifts to. Gratitude truly turns what we have into enough. So take a step back and be grateful.

I know what I am truly grateful for: my brother's home and all of us are now all home for the holidays. I'm grateful for my good health this year and good health of those around me. I'm grateful for the friends that have given me advice and lots of laughs. I'm grateful that there is always something to eat, and it's usually delicious. I'm grateful that there's an outlet for me to share my thoughts, and I'm grateful to all of your for reading.

I'm truly grateful, and for that I have enough.

Happy Thursday!


P.S. If you're in Chicago, go see A Christmas Story the Musical at the Chicago Theatre. Ellen and I went last night for her work and I thought it was hilarious and so cute!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tis the DIY

Ahhh the holidays! There's nothing like them and it's definitely the season for giving gifts. To me, the gifts that are most cherished are those that we hand-make ourselves. Fortunately for all of us, there are so many great DIY projects out right now, from decorating our homes to giving gifts to our friends. Here's some DIYs that I'm loving right now for the home:

Source: via Susan on Pinterest

Here are some fabulous DIYs that you can give as gifts:
Source: via Susan on Pinterest
Source: via Susan on Pinterest

Seriously, my lists could go on and on about all the fun DIYs that we could do over this holiday. What I love about these finds are that a lot of these things are gifts that your relatives and friends will not think they will need or like, but they will end up LOVING them.  Do you have a DIY staple that you love to give? I can't lie when I say that I knit a lot and my knitted handmade gifts are what I love to give. I'm going to the yarn store hopefully today for some more yarn and new patterns. Can't wait! Happy Tuesday!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Must share!

I had to share this ad that Brooks Brothers put out this holiday season. If you don't know, Brooks Brothers creates preppy and classic pieces for men, women and kids, and they specialize in sweaters. My sisters found this video on YouTube. Seriously, it speaks for itself. It is so cute and clever and just so darn cute, I couldn't not share it with you all. If you LOVE the first video, then do me a favor and watch this behind the scenes video. You'll die, really.

Have you died yet? It's adorable. Now watch this!

This brings the biggest smile to my face! Our whole family has watched it multiple times. I hope you enjoyed it too!

Weekend Highlight: Giving Back

This weekend was full of recovery. It was nice to finally feel well again, thank goodness. I was happy to get home to family and friends and have some quality sister time.

I must say though, the highlight of this weekend was definitely giving back. A few friends and I have a singing group together and we wanted to Christmas Carol at some nursing homes in our area. We performed some holiday favorites and then talked with the residents. They were so happy to see us, but I was even happier just to be there. They do not get many visitors, so many were even brought to tears that we were stopping by (which in turn made all of us cry. See a pattern?!). Talking with them and hearing stories of their pasts made all of us even happier to arrive at our futures. The one foreign lady who worked there even wished us happy holidays and even wished us all good husbands! We laughed, cried, and were so thankful that we were given the opportunity to go and visit with these people and we definitely want to go back this spring.

Have you given back in some way? How do you give back in your community?

Happy Monday!! 13 days til Christmas!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday's Fancies: Holiday Party

Holiday Night Out

I believe this outfit is the epitome of holiday glam, since {av} deemed this week's seem as your Holiday Party Best! I always wish that I had a fancy holiday party to attend, and this outfit has me lusting for one! We've been seeing sequins everywhere, but I really love this dress. The V Neck and the color are gorgeous. I'd pair it with a fun pair of red suede heels, some studded earrings, and an armful of bangles and it's ready for a gorgeous holiday evening. Also, who doesn't love this coat? I think white coats are gorgeous and we're finally getting to the point in time where we need to wear them to their fullest. It's perfect for that special evening.

This weekend I'm still recovering from my sickness. This one hit me pretty hard, so I don't think there's any better for me than laying low and recovering so I can enjoy lots of holiday activities the next few days. I'm talking shopping, skating, strolls downtown, you know, the works, so I want to be in tip top form! For now it's just going to be more Christmas concerts (because seriously you can never go see too many) and holiday rom coms with my sister. All in all, a pretty great weekend planned. I hope you all have fabulous weekends as well!