Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

from my tree:

(she is vintage - I made her in 4th grade)

(Mele kalikimaka ornament from our honeymoon in Hawaii)

(glass star ornaments from Higgins Glass Studio)

2nd Honeymoon

My husband and I are leaving for Rome on the 27th to celebrate our 1st anniversary together. (on December 31st - we had a New Year's Eve wedding) I keep accidently calling the trip our honeymoon. Our wedding day feels like yesterday...

(all pics courtesy of my cousin Molly and my best-friend's husband Norma)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Due to horrible driving weather (I didn't want to drive 3 hours to Michigan on snow covered roads), I had to run a few errands for my mom and make fudge in Chicago. It was my first time making fudge (I previously thought you bake it in the oven) and it turned out great. I used the recipe on the back of the Marshmallow creme jar:

Fantasy Fudge:
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 12-oz. (340 g) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Baker's semi-sweet)
1 7-oz. (198 g) jar Kraft Marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine sugar, margarine and milk in heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan; bring to full rolling bail, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 4 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate till melted. Add marshmallow creme, nuts & vanilla beat till blended. Pour into greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Let cool and cut into 1-inch squares.


the church and house from Home Alone. Instead of driving home to Michigan to help my mother finish shopping, baking, and wrapping, my husband and I drove up to Winnetka, IL. (Michigan was having a blizzard) This area is full of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen in my entire life.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Grandma Nell's Cut-Out Cookies:

The following recipe has been in my family for years!

1/2 c butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 t water
1 t baking powder
1 t vanilla
1/2 t salt

Soften butter; combine with egg yolk, water, and vanilla. Add sugar and mix well. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. (flour, baking powder, and salt) Slowly add dry ingredients, using a pastry blender to mix. Dough will be dry and crumbly.

Cover your kitchen counter with wax paper, taping edges down. Pour a mound of flour (about 1/4 cup) on the right hand corner of the wax paper - use to dust the wax paper so the dough won't stick.

Scoop out two hand-fulls of dough, making a "dough ball." Roll this ball out on the flour covered wax paper with a rolling pin covered with a stockinette sleeve. (use flour on the rolling pin sleeve, also) Roll dough to about 1/4 inch thick.

Cut out shapes with cookie cutter. Scoop cookie off wax paper with a spatula and transfer to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove from over before the edges of the cookies turn brown. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet, then transfer to newspaper lined counter to set.

1/4 cup butter
4 cups of powdered sugar
3 T milk

Mix together with electric mixer, adding additional milk if desired. Divide into small bowls and add food coloring.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hub 51

On the way to see A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre, my husband and I ate dinner at Hub 51. This is located in River North right next to the adult book store. Yes, that is right, the adult book store. This area of the city has some of the newest restaurants in the downtown area, but some of the "local flavor" of the neighborhood remains. The first thing I noticed when I walked through the door was the noise level. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was not expecting loud and crowded with young business men and women. (this is definitely not a place for a quiet dinner - at least on a Thursday night) If you are looking for a place to eat/drink with colleagues or friends this is the perfect place. I was surprised by the witty menu ranging from sushi, guacamole, burgers, fish tacos, and mahi mahi. (read the small print on the menu) The service was perfect and the food was delicious. (the only negative thing was that the bathroom was hard to find) Where else can you order miso-glazed salmon rolls and guacamole for an appetizer? We will be going back soon!

Full House

Remember Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen? Well, they created a clothing line called Elizabeth and James (named after their siblings) and now they have created lamps and rugs at Target. I wonder what will be next? (I have to admit that I do like this leather jacket)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

my mixer has been busy

While I am grateful for all of my shower gifts from a year ago, my kitchenaid artisan mixer has saved me a ton of time in the kitchen. (thank you Aunt Marge!) This is what I mixed up this week:


Paula Dean's Cheese Ball (originally on Oprah)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely minced green onions (white part only)
1 jar diced pimento, drained
3/4 cup Fisher pecans, divided (Of course, any nut will do!)
10 slices of bacon, cooked, drained, finely crumbled and divided
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Place cream cheese in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer. Turn to Speed Two and mix 1 minute. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to Speed Two and gradually add milk, mixing until well blended about 1 minute. Stop and scrape bowl. Add cheeses, onions, pimientos, half of the bacon and half the pecans. Turn to Speed 4 and beat until well blended, about another minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer mixture to a large piece of plastic wrap. Form into a ball and wrap tightly. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Refrigerate (or freeze) at least 2 hours. Combine the remaining bacon and remaining pecans, parsley and poppy seeds in a pie plate.
Then, remove the plastic wrap and roll the cheese ball lightly in the bacon/nut mixture until evenly coated. Wrap it back up in plastic wrap and refrigerate again until ready to use.


I finished up my holiday shopping last night. (while I let the pizza dough rise - more on that later) My intent was to try and buy handmade as much as possible and/or from local stores. Here is a list of people/local places that I found great holiday gifts from:

Old Factory Candle Company
Hello handmade paperie
Old Town Oil
The Spice House
Old Town Nails (a gift certificate)
Pet Stuff (Henry got a new girlfriend named Santa's little helper - she is a chicken in a bikini and he is already in love and her name is actually Henrietta!)

(and I did get a few things from TJMaxx, Target, Walgreens, and Crate & Barrel)

Bead Designs by Dana Sale

I received this info in an email:

Holiday Blowout Sale!
Lillstreet Art Center - Studio 2014401
N. Ravenswood Street
Chicago, IL 60640
Saturday, December 2011am - 3pm
Enjoy 40% OFF that day only!
(go here to check out more jewelry)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Martha knows wreaths

You can never go wrong with these ideas from Martha Stewart:

As seen on...

The Starter Wife (on USA) - I was watching the last 2 episodes of the season last night and noticed these 2 things:
this cream and sugar (I love that the creamer look like a milk carton) and this adorable apron

A slice of pie

I have a love/hate relationship with these 2 buildings. I think they are a little ugly, yet I still want to know what they look like inside. Most people call them the corn cob buildings, but the real name is Marina City.

And now the floor plan:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bathroom ideas

I love the subway tile with grey grout. (more pics here)

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I was tagged by Semi-Hipster Homeowner
The rules:
1. Link to your tagger and list the rules
2. List 7 random facts about yourself
3. Tag 7 people (and make sure you check back and see what they say!)
4. If you’re tagged, play along and pass it on!
Here I go:
1. I hate to fly in air planes. My palms get clammy and my heart feels like it is going to beat right out of my chest. I never felt as safe as I did when I went skydiving in South Africa over Robben Island and had a parachute attached to my back.

2. I am very religious and I believe that everything happens for a reason

3. I am not a Democrat or a Republican. On certain issues I am a Democrat and on other issues I am a Republican. I live my life fairly conservatively, but I don't believe that is best for our country as a whole. Does that make sense? I am the only one in my family (on my husband's side too) that voted for Obama.

4. I am older than my husband. (by a year and a half) I never thought I would marry a younger man.

5. I actually like to run and have been doing so for over 6 years. I used to be the person that thought I should only run if I were being chased, but I can honestly say that I love it now. (it took a long to time to get to this point) - so that is why I keep running - I don't want to go back to when I could only run for about 60 seconds. I don't want to flush 6 years. two 25ks, and two marathons down the drain.

6. I like eating breakfast foods for dinner. Specifically, eggs and toast, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Special K with almonds for dinner.

7. For the past 10 years, I have only painted my nails 3 colors: pale pink/nude (I like Sally Hansen and Opi), Essie's Wicked and (once in awhile) Opi red (at my wedding I had my toes painted classic red so I could see them in my peep toe shoes)

You are it:
Banana Peel

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My 2 favorite Christmas movies

A few years ago, my husband and I visited the house from A Christmas Story on the way to a wedding in Detroit. Maybe this year, we will visit the house from Home Alone in Winnetka. (on the way to eat Reindeer dogs)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The after Christmas sales are already starting:

go here, here, and here

Reindeer hotdog

What??? ... my husband just brought an article in the Tribune about fRedhots and Fries offering Alaska Reindeer meat hot dog. Can you tell that my husband loves hot dogs?? For his birthday, I bought him this book. (I only put ketchup on my dog) I will not be trying reindeer - my days of eating mystery meat are over (since I had a bad situation in South Africa involving goat)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Henry's Christmas ornament

The perfect holiday top:

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

more info here

Restaurant Review

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

Occasion: husband's birthday

Crowd: older business men, older couples

Dress: sport coats, dresses

Wine: a bottle of red wed from South Africa (it was the featured wine)

Appetizer: seared ahi tuna (skip the appetizer and save room for the steak)

Dinner: Filet (for me) and ribeye with blue cheese crust (for my husband)

Dessert: (free for the birthday) caramelized bananas in white chocolate pudding

After having the restaurant recommended to us by numerous people, we decided to try it. (we saw one in Maui last winter, but I can't go to a steakhouse in Hawaii - I would rather have Mamma's Fish House) I highly recommend Ruth's Chris if you are looking for a traditional old school steak house. The steak was melt-in-your-mouth amazing! And when it arrived at the table, you could hear the butter sizzling on the plate. Steak and melted butter, it doesn't get any better.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

$25.00 and under gift ideas

I especially like these little deer candles and this. The candles remind me of the vintage gurley deer candles I found at an antique store - they look like exact reproductions.
(from Sprout)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

DIY Ice Wreath

During wedding planning a year ago, my mom and I wanted to have white carnation wreaths (an idea from Martha) hanging on the church doors. Keep in mind my wedding was in Michigan on New Year's Eve... the florist informed us that the flowers would die and turn black from the cold :(
Our next idea was to make ice wreaths along with ice luminaries to have outside. We changed our mind and went with paper luminaries just in case it wasn't cold enough outside.

(picture 2 huge white wreaths on the wooden doors)

Remember Eddie from Top Design? I was trying to find a picture of a carnation wreath and found this pic on his blog. (more info here) (to DIY go here)

DIY yourself ice wreath - go here for directions

(maybe I will try it on our balcony with cranberries from Trader Joe's)

Sale at Jcrew

most of the jewelry is actually affordable

Experiment #2

Finding the best Hot Chocolate in Chicago
Here is a list of what I have tried:

Starbucks: OK for hot chocolate, I would rather make a cheaper version at home D

Godiva Hot Chocolate: (available at Starbucks only in Barnes and Noble stores) A
(or you could buy the tin of powder and make your own)

Nordstrom's Cafe Mexican Hot Chocolate: I didn't like this spicy version F

Vosges Haut Chocolat La Parisienne: Creamy hot chocolate, I felt like I was drinking a chocolate bar... A+ (Ray Rachel and the Today Show voted this #1)

Ethel's: I had this awhile ago, but I remember it being expensive B

Sarah's Pastries and Candies: This was good classic hot chocolate B

Experiment #1

Support Socks

For my experiment (which was not very scientific), I started by trying a pair of black support socks from Nordstrom. (it was during the half-yearly sale in July)
Overall review: They are good compression socks because they stay up, wash well, and look like normal trouser socks.

A few weeks later a package arrived in the mail for my birthday. My best friend sent me a pair of Sigvaris knee high stockings and this was the end of the experiment. (this sounds like we are 80 years old, not 29)
Overall review: I love them because they help with circulation (you can feel this as soon as you try them on), are comfortable, look like normal trouser socks, and my feet don't hurt at the end of the day.

And they make a great birthday or Christmas present.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Perfect city boots

on sale

P.O.S.H. Chicago

I stopped in P.O.S.H. yesterday and wanted to buy everything in the store. It is a tiny store, but has the best selection of French tableware, flea market finds, and vintage Christmas decorations.
(and the prices are reasonable)

pewter candle holders

Daschund bottle opener

vintage inspired bird ornaments (for some reason I am drawn to bird ornaments)

vintage brasserie salt and pepper

salt and pepper shakers for only $12.00