Monthly Archives: November 2012

the friday five: deck the halls

Another week gone, which means Christmas is only getting closer. I can hardly believe that tomorrow marks the first of December… I feel like my birthday was just last week!

I’m keeping today’s Friday Five post short, sweet and to the point. In honor of tomorrow marking the 25 days until Christmas countdown (so excited to finally dig in to my advent calendar!), I’m counting down my five favorite Christmas movies of all-time.

5. Noel. Ok — so many of you probably have never even heard of this movie, but this was a classic in my house growing up. It was actually a TV movie about a cheerful Christmas ornament with a certain “happiness” that rubs off on the family he lives with. Never heard of it? You can actually watch it here.

 

4. The Year Without a Santa Claus: This is one of my dad’s absolute favorite movies and he knows the words to all of the songs. You can find him humming, “I’m Mister White Christmas, I’m Mister Snow,” all the way up until Christmas Eve. Between the awesome old-fashioned claymation and really catchy tunes, it’s hard for this not to become an instant favorite.

 

3. The [Original] Grinch: While Jim Carrey is great, to me there is nothing better than the original Grinch. I always loved the big message behind the movie —“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

 

2. The Polar Express. When this movie first came out, I wasn’t too interested in seeing it to be honest. I was all about the classics — Frosty, Rudolph, you get the idea. But as someone who’s now nearing her mid-twenties (woah, that’s weird to say), and still believes in the magic of Christmas and Santa, this movie really hit home and always manages to make me tear up.

 

1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It is a family ritual to watch this movie at least a dozen times in the weeks leading up to Christmas. My family can practically recite the entire movie by heart. There’s nothing I look forward to more every year than putting this on Christmas Eve and laughing with my family until our insides hurt. Even after all these years – it’s still our favorite. Here’s one of my favorite parts of the movie.

 

While these movies are definitely some of my favorites, there are so many more that I look forward to watching every year. Buddy the Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Claus, A Christmas Story… the list goes on and on. My favorite part of all of them though is spending time with my loved ones during my absolute favorite time of the year.

What are your favorite holiday movies? I’d love to hear them!

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hey world — be my friend!

Remember the awkward days of middle school lunchtime? You don’t really know anyone, so you make a few laps with your tray looking for an open seat at a table where the people look friendly enough to welcome you in. Instead, you fail to muster up the necessary courage and you find a seat at a table by yourself, hoping that someone else who’s feeling a little lost and left out too will come join you. Or was that just me?

I’m kind of weird. For many reasons… but mainly because I’m painfully shy when meeting new people, unless I’m with someone I already know. Once I get to know you, you’ll have a hard time shutting me up but you’d never guess that from a first encounter. In fact, I’ve had many of my best friends tell me they hated me at first because they mistook my quiet demeanor and standoffish nature for bitchiness. Oops.

But the good thing about middle school, and high school and especially college – it’s so easy to make friends. From the classroom, to student organizations to dorm rooms… you’re surrounded and connected to others at all times.

I wish I had gotten the memo that making friends after college isn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped it would be. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to move to DC was to take myself out of my comfort zone. I had lived in Philly for the last four years and knew the city and the people like the back of my hand. As much as I loved Philly and the friends I had made, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in the same place, knowing the same people. All of those sayings that people Instagram and pin on Pinterest? You know the ones – “Carpe Diem,” and “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Well, I actually wanted to live them.

So now I’m here, in this new city that I’m slowly starting to call home. I’m still learning all the neighborhoods and districts. I can’t quite get a grasp on the city grid yet either and get lost quite often. I’m not sure where the best hangout spots are or where I can find the best slice of pizza. Nor do I really know how to go about the middle -schoolesque awkwardness of finding new friends. Well… I do, but I guess you can just say I’ve been too afraid to try.

I’m well aware of different professional and social groups in the area that meet up on a regular basis. In fact, I’ve penciled in quite a few of these gatherings on my calendar only to come up with some excuse as to why I couldn’t go. “Oh, it’s too far,” or “I probably shouldn’t spend any money,” or “the traffic is too bad.” Ok – that last one is actually a pretty viable excuse for anyone who knows what traffic is like in the DMV area.

So I guess I really have no right at all to complain, or whimper or whine. I’m not in middle school anymore. Nobody is going to bring their tray to the table to sit with me and be my friend, as much as I’d like them to. Yes it’s going to be uncomfortable. Definitely even a little scary at first too. But that’s why I moved down here in the first place, and I can’t lose sight of that.

I guess it’s finally time I begin to “Carpe the diem” and get out of my comfort zone.

Isn’t that the only way we can grow?

holiday pinspiration

This morning when I hopped on Instagram and saw my friends’ pictures of snow covered trees I was hoping I’d wake up to the same winter wonderland. Instead I pulled back my curtains and saw grey skies, wet streets and cold rain. Bah humbug. But not even the cold rain can contain my obnoxious excitement and holiday cheer – Christmas is less than a month away!

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my love for the holiday season. I start listening to Christmas music on Thanksgiving. I begin my ritual of hot chocolate and Christmas movie marathons. I drive down winding streets to bask in the Christmas lights. I consider picking a Christmas tree an art. And I decorate. Boy, do I decorate.

Every year, without fail, I spend money I probably shouldn’t and bulk up my Christmas décor. Cute snowmen? Check. Sparkly reindeer? Check. Cinnamon-scented pinecones, Christmas tree candles and Santa galore? Check, check, check.

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Growing up, one of my fondest childhood memories was helping my mom unpack the endless boxes of Christmas decorations every year. I’d spend the entire weekend after Thanksgiving helping her hang lights and mistletoe and candy canes. We’d drink hot cocoa, listen to Jingle Bells and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree on repeat and we’d decorate until our fingers were numb from all the thumbtacks and sticky tape.

So, from an early age, I aspired to have boxes and boxes full of Christmas cheer. Boxes full of tinsel, and nutcrackers and porcelain figurines. For the past four years I’ve been foraging, finding, collecting and buying the perfect holiday trinkets for my home. It’s my hope that one day… (not anytime soon, trust me), my own daughter will spend hours going through these boxes with me as we sing carols and sip cocoa in our festive pajamas.

Thanks to Pinterest (I feel like I thank that site at least twice a week), I found a ton of “home for the holidays” Pinspiration. What I love most was that so many of these DIY projects seem so simple (and even better) cheap!

Check out the projects I’m hoping to work on in the coming weeks:

Wine bottles ~ spray painted, sprayed with adhesive and rolled in epsom salts

5 Minute Tinsel Garland Wreath

Canvas Christmas art project

Which project should I get started on first?

Merry Pinning, everyone!

home is where the heart is

I’m not a fan of Mondays by any stretch of the imagination… quite frankly, I don’t know anyone who is. But Mondays after a nice, relaxing four-day holiday staycation? Those Mondays are the absolute worst. After four days off, your pajamas are perfectly worn in, you’ve found the groove on the couch that’s just right and you’ve established a new schedule for yourself: sleep in, eat, watch TV, nap, shop, dinner, drinks, repeat. And then Monday has the nerve to come knocking with its 6:45 AM alarm clocks and skipped breakfast and annoying commute.

Okay – end of rant.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving – I know I did. I was a little saddened when I woke up on Thursday to a quiet apartment, sans my two cats who were busy trying to eat doorstoppers (weirdos). Thanksgiving at my parents’ house always involved waking up early to the hustling and bustling of my mom and dad in the kitchen. My dad muttering something about the name of the turkey, my mom making a fuss about the mess in the kitchen and my brother, sister and I ripping up loaves of bread for the homemade stuffing. I missed the chaos.

But Mike and I were excited to start some “chaos” of our own. Mike was off to the grocery store to pick up the “fattest chicken he could find,” while I started prepping the apartment with pumpkin scented candles, setting the table and creating a schedule. Once Mike returned, hilarity ensued.

Martha Stewart in the making… you can’t have a holiday feast without a floral arrangement.

Neither Mike nor I have ever cooked a whole chicken before. I knew that he’d have to clean out the “giblets” inside the chicken and made it very clear that I’d cook everything else if he took care of that one task.  After several failed attempts to “man up,” he finally took the plunge and got starting on cleaning out the chicken.

One of my favorite parts of the day… watching Mike become a man.

We found a simple, yet mouthwatering recipe from Pioneer Girl that called for a few ingredients: butter, lemon, garlic, onion, thyme, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Our mis en place for the chicken — I love the smell of fresh herbs.

We stuffed the inside of the chicken with a whole lemon, a few cloves of smashed garlic (to release the aromas and juices), and a few slices of onion. Once she’d be stuffed, we gave her a bath in a coat of butter to crisp up her skin and slathered her with the fresh herbs. After she was dressed up and ready to go, we shoved her in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

This was absolutely the best chicken I’ve ever had. Not to brag or anything.

As the chicken was browning in the oven, I started the arduous task of making homemade mac n’ cheese. Mac n’ cheese really is a labor of love. I decided to make a copycat recipe of Panera’s white cheddar stovetop macaroni since it’s one of my favorites (who doesn’t love Vermont sharp white cheddar?) This involved a lot of whisking, yelling at Mike for dumping in the flour too quickly, more whisking, yelling at Mike for dumping in the milk too quickly, more whisking, yelling at Mike for the sake of yelling and finally a few cups of cheese. It turned out absolutely amazing. I could have eaten the pound of pasta myself. Luckily, I didn’t.

To accompany the chicken and macaroni we had your typical Thanksgiving sides – roasted baby potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans and rolls. It was quite a feast for two people.

Hard to believe all of this food was for two people! Good thing I love leftovers.

To wash down our yummy meal, I made homemade apple cider sangria. It was surprisingly very easy to make and absolutely delicious to drink. Using a bottle of Yellowtail Moscato, a few cups of apple cider, three chopped honeycrisp apples and a few splashes of cognac – it was the perfect holiday drink.

With a dash of cognac (or brandy) this is what fall would taste like in liquid form.

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a sweet treat. While I absolutely love pumpkin pie – baking and desserts aren’t really my specialty. So I decided to try something different and make a lite pumpkin pie cheesecake mousse.

The perfect ending to a delicious meal.

I have never been happier about throwing tradition out the window because this dessert was to die for and it was so easy to make! All it called for was pumpkin puree, skim milk, light cream cheese, cinnamon, stevia, pumpkin spice and light whipped cream. And all I had to do was throw all of the above into a blender and let it sit for an hour. Amazing!

They weren’t lying when they said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Judging by the look on Mike’s face… I think it’s safe to say we had a delicious first Thanksgiving meal on our own together. Sure it involved the smoke detector going off a few times and I may have found pumpkin puree in my hair later that day… but I wouldn’t trade any of it. Together, we made that day feel like home, even though we were hundreds of miles away.

saying “i do” to holiday shopping wedding specials

I have a confession to make everyone. When I can’t sleep at night (which happens way more often than I’d like), instead of trying to turn back over and count sheep… I whip out my iPhone. And I Pin.

Last night, for some reason or other, Mike snored louder than usual and at 4:31 this morning, my eyes flung up and I just knew that I wouldn’t be falling back asleep again. After about an hour of failed attempts of flipping over pillows, readjusting body positions and nudging Mike to be quiet, I grabbed my phone and started surfing through Pinterest for more wedding Pinspiration. Needless to say, I think I’m up to more than 500 wedding pins by now… for about 10 different versions of a wedding I’ll never be able to afford.

My wedding color inspiration. What do you think?

While I’m still 10 months out from walking down the aisle, I can’t help but wanting to dive into all the tiny, detailed projects that are usually reserved for 2-3 months before the wedding. Things like table numbers, place cards, guest favors…you get the idea. All the while, I still don’t even have my Save the Dates out the door yet (that’s our project this holiday weekend… it is my goal to be able to write in my next wedding Wednesday post that they’ve been shipped out.)

Because I’m such an OCD, need-to-do-everything-way-too-early bride, I’ve found it helpful to consult different wedding planning timelines to keep myself rest assured that I’m not falling behind schedule.

I found this timeline (on Pinterest, of course) and I think it does a great job at outlining where I should be with my wedding planning progress every step of the way. So far, it looks like I’m on schedule.

Besides sharing my schedule neurosis, I wanted to be sure I shared some great Black Friday wedding sales that every bride should know about. I’ve always loved Black Friday shopping (my mom began taking me to Walmart at the age of 10 after I begged her for weeks), so as a budget bride, nothing gets me more jazzed than big wedding sales.

Tying The Knott did a great job with this post about various deals, including discounts on limo services, wedding invitations and favors, personalized candies and organic bouquets.

Michael’s, one of my favorite crafts stores, is having a ton of Black Friday sales which you can check out in its ads here.

Of course, top retailers like Target, Macys, Nordstroms and Kohls have Black Friday sales planned that shouldn’t be missed as well.

For those who don’t like waiting in line for hours with frozen fingers and toes and uber-pushy sale shoppers, don’t forget to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals as well – when you can get a great bargain with a quick click of a mouse. Retailers include David’s Bridal, The Knot Wedding Shop, ProFlowers, Snapfish and RedEnvelope to name a few.

Here’s to a great holiday and unbeatable bargains.

Do you plan on saying “I do” to any of these Black Friday/Cyber Monday wedding deals or do you have others to share?

Today is my six-month workiversary, and looking back, I’m really proud of how far I’ve come.

I was honored to be given the opportunity to guest blog for one of my mentors and fellow Temple Owl, Jason Mollica, about my experiences and lessons learned this past half year.

Before you pack up and spend the next few hours in traffic for the holiday commute, I’d love for you to give this post a read and share your thoughts!

Thanks again Jason!

One Guy's Journey

[Jas’ note: I’m thrilled to welcome Niki Ianni, a fellow Temple University alum, to the blog with a great and timely post.]

Six months ago to the day, I put on my new Macy’s clearance rack suit, smoothed my hair, double-checked my briefcase for all the basics and took a deep breath as I walked confidently into the next phase of my life – the start of my post-graduate career.

The all-nighter study sessions, thousands of draft edits and hundreds of internship hours… everything I worked for in the past four years had finally paid off. While getting here had not been an easy feat, full of dozens of applications, gallons of coffee and the occasional mental breakdown…with hard work and determination, I secured my dream job working as a public relations specialist at the largest animal protection organization in the country.

For those who are preparing to…

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gobble de-lite

I usually hate Mondays (who doesn’t?) but with this being Thanksgiving week, I don’t mind so much. While I’m saddened by not being able to spend the holiday with my family and friends, I am excited for Mike and I to take our first stab at starting our own Thanksgiving traditions.

This past weekend we solidified the menu and I’m excited because even though I’m the one that has to do all the cooking, I have total control over the menu and finally get to make Thanksgiving foods that I like. Which means there’s no turkey this year, thank gobble. (Yup, I went there.)

Instead we’ll be making a delicious rotisserie chicken, followed by homemade mac n’ cheese, green beans, cranberry sauce and of course, homemade pumpkin pie. I’m sure that with our first attempt at a menu like this, the chicken will probably come out dry and the mac n’ cheese won’t be cheesy enough, but I can’t wait to get down and dirty in the kitchen with Mike. This Thanksgiving will definitely be one for the scrapbooks.

While everything on the menu sounds absolutely delicious, it definitely gives me and my waistband a scare. I’ve been doing fairly well with my healthier new lifestyle (except my birthday weekend… I totally tanked on cake and carbs), so I wanted to see if I could find a way to make a mouth-watering Thanksgiving meal without having to go up a few pant sizes.

You’d be amazed at how many “healthy version of X” recipes you can find with a quick Google search. It just goes to show you with some creative substitutions, you can eat comfort foods without all the guilt.

Here are some of the healthier alternative recipes I’ll be whipping up for the holiday:

For my fellow turkey-haters, chicken can be a great Thanksgiving alternative. Check out this delicious recipe from Self Magazine.

If I could eat mac n’ cheese every day, I totally would. This lighter and healthier version of my favorite classic from Fitness Magazine cuts the calories without cutting out the comfort.

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without pumpkin pie and FitSugar gives 20 awesome ideas for ways to get creative while keeping the calories down.

What do you think of these healthy alternatives to staple Thanksgiving treats? I know my waist will be thankful that I won’t have to put on my elastic yoga (eating) pants at the end of the day.

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes? I’d love to hear them!