Friday, December 30, 2011

Cheers to 2012

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." - Benjamin Franklin
Happy New Year!
 That is quite a New Year's Eve toast Mr. Ben Franklin!!  Well the countdown has begun and 2011 is almost over.  Have you achieved what you wanted to this year?  Any regrets?  New Years is usually a time for reflection as well as an optimistic look ahead.  There is something about a whole new year that makes people buoyant, energized and empowered.  It makes me feel like I can overcome all of the trials and tribulations of the past year.  Though I am not sure how much of that is the affect of New Years Eve or the large of amounts of champagne I usually drink.
It's not New Years without bubbly!
Nothing rings in the New Year like a good glass (or glasses) of bubbly and a toast.   The act toasting is a ritual that has been around for centuries.  While today it is a way to honor either a person, a celebration or a holiday would you believe the custom might have started over concerns of poisoningSome say the act of clinking glasses together would cause the drink in each cup to slosh into the other (in affect making sure your guests weren't slipping you a mickey!)  Crazy right?  Others say the word "toast" became associated with the custom because the wines used were flavored with spiced toasts.  Who knew?  Fortunately, I am not concerned about my friends poisoning my flute of champagne on Saturday night and I hope you aren't either!  
Do you save your champagne corks?
This year, Joe and I are chiming in the New Year with friends in Milwaukee.  No doubt there will be lots of champagne, laughs and of course a few toasts.  So enjoy the last few hours of 2011 with these wonderfully delicious champagne cocktails perfect to raise in your glass.  Cheers!

Adapted from Avalon Wine
Classic Champagne Cocktail
This classic, fizzy concoction came on the scene in 1935 at the Metropolitan Hotel in New York City. The bitters add a nice edge as the sweetness from the sugar cube slowly seeps into bright effervescence of the wine.   I dare you to drink just one!

• Sugar cubes
• Angostura bitters
• Chilled champagne
• Lemon twist

In a small bowl soak sugar cubes with splashes of Angostura bitters (about 4-5 splashes per cube or to taste).  Place one soaked sugar cube at the bottom of a champagne flute.  Slightly tilt the glass and fill slowly with champagne.  Garnish with a lemon twist.  Enjoy!

Adapted from Yum Sugar
Grapefruit Sparkler
If you have any left over bottles of champagne on New Year's Day this is a great twist on the classic Mimosa.  The sweet sugar cube cuts through the tangy grapefruit juice to perk you up after a night of partying.  

• Sugar cubes
• Chilled grapefruit juice
• Chilled champagne

Place one sugar cube at the bottom of a champagne flute.  Add a few tablespoons of grapefruit juice.  Slightly tilt the glass and fill slowly with champagne. Happy New Year!

Saying Thank You!!

"No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks." - Unknown
My thank you notes this year
Do you write thank you notes?  I do... or at least I try to remember to as much as I can.  Now as we are playing with our new gifts and gadgets from the holidays and feeling all jolly tis' the time to say thank you to all those generous folks in our lives! 
Learn how to make your own Polaroid cards below
I am not sure when my giving thanks streak started but I am pretty sure it was about the time I got my first set of personalized stationary.  I remember the thick, ivory tinted card stock with my name embossed on the top as if I was someone of great importance.  Even now I find myself perusing Minted or Tiny Prints for new and pretty paper products to pen my next hand written note or thank you.
Aren't these thank you notes precious? (via Minted)
There is something special about pulling out the old pen and paper and scribing a little note to someone special.  Especially when you are thanking them!  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Winter Must Have

Winter is nature's way of saying, "Up yours." - Robert Byrne
Seriously!! Winter is upon us and I am not ready.  Come to think of it... I am never ready for cold weather.  In the midst of looking forward to the holidays I seem to completely forget that cold, dreary, frigid weather is what follows.  Especially when you live in Chicago!  

However I quickly found out how the women of the Windy City cope with the bitter, snowy temps while still looking fabulous.  HUNTER BOOTS AND WELLIE SOCKS!
I love my Hunter Wellies!
I must have been living under a fashion void rock because I had never really noticed Hunter boots before I moved to Chicago.  While freezing my butt off waiting for the EL Blue Line Train I couldn't help but notice that many gals were stomping around in these cute rubber galoshes with flashy knit socks all sporting the name HUNTER.  Little did I know this fashion trend is more than 100 years old!  Seriously... these boots have history!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pet Therapy

Meet the two loves of my life...

Joe and Ruby
My fiance enjoys a cuddle with our dog Ruby every day after work.  Like clockwork he walks through the door of our Chicago condo, kicks off his shoes, lies down on the couch and Ruby hops up on his chest.  The entire event is frustrating for me... you know, the person who feeds, walks and pets the dog all day only to be ignored the moment Joe walks through the door.  (So this is what it is like to be second favorite?)

Any given Tuesday
If you are a dog owner, or really any kind of pet owner, you know the power of our furry friends to drain away all of the day's stress and frustrations.  It is almost like magic.  Almost immediately after that big wet nose nuzzles up to Joe he melts into a completely relaxed state.  Plus it is so adorable!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Destination: Grand Haven, Michigan

The day after Christmas always seems like a haze.  I am a little hungover from all of the food, drinks and festivities.  I am also a bit stir crazy.  Day-after Christmas shopping seems to be the perfect solution to get out of the house and stretch my legs.  Instead of heading to the mall (which I HATE) Joe and I decided to get our "shopping local" on and make the half hour drive to Grand Haven, MI.

"Coast Guard City, USA"

Grand Haven is popular tourist destination nestled on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan.  The town is known for boating, fishing and its picturesque lighthouses.  There is also a huge Coast Guard presence.  So big that President Bill Clinton signed an act of Congress to officially designate the town "Coast Guard City, USA" back in 1998 (random Jeopardy fact for the day!)  It is also where Joe's sister lives.
Best Brunch in Grand Haven
Our first stop was Dee Lite Bar and Grill right on the town's main drag Washington Avenue where we met up with Joe's family.  (I mean, who can shop without a little bit of nourishment??) This is such a cute, eclectic neighborhood spot with amazing egg dishes and tasty coffee.  I had an incredible egg white spinach wrap filled with lots of asiago cheese and roasted red peppers that would make Pop-eye proud.  If you are looking for a place to grab brunch this is the place to go!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Veggie Christmas Wreath

One of the reasons I love the holidays is cooking up a storm with family.  Whether it's recipes passed down from generation to generation or trying out new tasty delights.  Thanks to Pinterest I have a new holiday treat to add to my Christmas repertoire!  

Our first attempt at a Vegetable Christmas Wreath
Introducing the Vegetable Christmas Wreath!  It's the perfect combination of crispy veggies and creamy ranch all wrapped around a toasty crescent dough wreath.  When my soon-to-be mother-in-law spotted it on Pinterest last week we knew we had to make it for Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Packing up Presents for Christmas Travel

So like many folks out there I am preparing to pack up and head home for the holidays.  Specifically my soon-to-be in-law's home in South Western Michigan.  Ever since we moved to Chicago two years ago we have enjoyed the quick three hour journey to visit with his parents and the holidays is no exception.  With two adults and a dog packing us up is never really a problem... but Christmas means presents... lots and lots of wrapped presents!!  

I love, love, love all of the wrapping options at World Market!!!

 Ladies (and some Gentlemen) you will understand my struggle!  I spent hours and hours of time personally wrapping these gifts to give our family for the holidays.  I picked out every bow, craft-fully curled every ribbon and color coordinated every box and piece of wrapping paper.  

Our Home Depot Christmas Tree :-)