December 24, 2014

With all of the hustle and bustle (and sometimes stress) of the season, it all seems to stop and there is a calm that overcomes me each Christmas Eve.

My favorite thing about this time of year is not just about decorating the tree, or wishing for snow (always); it's about the traditions that I either carry on or remember from childhood. I thought I would share some of those with you!

Christmas Movies
Oh my goodness. This may have been the worse year yet for me and my relationship with the Hallmark channel. Those moves...what is it about them? Other than the fact that they ALL have a happy ending. It's been Christmas movie overload at our house. Every year. It happens. I also love the classics though. You can't beat White Christmas!

Either playing an instrument or listening to others play has been a part of my family for as long as I can remember. My cousin is an amazing pianist, and I can remember my mom playing Christmas carols on the piano - sometimes I would join in on the violin. I know the musical inspiration came from my grandfather who would kindly nudge anyone in the family that showed an ounce of musical talent to pursue it and practice, practice, practice. At every family gathering, after we were all full, we gathered around and listened to someone (usually my cousin) play.

You know that Christmas cookie smell? It's different than other cookie smells. :) My mom and I used to bake cookies at Christmas (and mostly just eat the dough). Funny how some things stick...I still prefer dough to the actual cookie! I don't always bake cookies now, but I typically make something Christmas-ish. Then I get really tired of sweets and vow to never eat them again.

Christmas Eve Service
Remember that calm feeling I mentioned? We've made our own tradition in the last couple years of going to a Christmas Eve service. For me personally, going to a service on Christmas Eve just relaxes me. I know that if my list isn't totally checked off by that point, it won't get done and there's no need to's Christmas, and it's okay. 

Listening for Santa
One Christmas Eve (I have no idea how old I was) I was in bed, wide awake because I knew Santa was on his way...I wanted to wait until I heard the reindeer on the roof to go to sleep. So there I was, listening away, and all the sudden I heard them. I was so excited!!!! I got out of bed to peak, but I got scared that Santa would see me and not give me any presents. So I ran back to bed and fell asleep. He never knew!

Christmas Story
I honestly can't remember a time on Christmas morning that we didn't read the Christmas Story before doing anything else. We would sit by the tree, read Luke 2:1-20, say a prayer, then open presents. Looking back, it was the perfect reminder of the entire reason we celebrate!

What are some of the traditions you or your family have? I'd love to know...

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Festive Pretzel Wands

December 22, 2014

Every Christmas I am drawn to all of the festive magazines on the rack with tons of food gift ideas and recipes...I feel like they really aren't much different than the other 11 issues throughout the year, but there's something about the Christmas cookies on the cover that makes me want to dig in (to the magazine, and the cookies).

A couple years ago I purchased one of these oh-so-special magazines, and started making these Pretzel Wands. They were pretty much a hit and every year folks that I work with start asking about them around the first of December. They do take a little time to make, but they're so good that I give in every. single. time.

I've made them the traditional way with nuts, but I've also rolled them in mini chocolate chips (delicious). There are so many possibilities. Have fun!

Triple Treat Pretzel Wands
From Better Homes and Gardens - Food Gifts Magazine

1 1/2 cups chopped mixed nuts
1 14-oz. package (about 50) vanilla caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons whipping cream, half-and-half, or light cream
18 large pretzel rods
2 oz. vanilla-flavor candy coating
1 teaspoon shortening
2 oz. chocolate-flavor candy coating

1. Butter a large baking sheet (or spread out wax paper and skip the baking sheet); set aside. Spread nuts in an even layer on a plate; set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, stir caramels and whipping cream over medium-low heat until caramels are melted. Reduce heat to low.
3. Hold each pretzel rod by one end over the pan and spoon hot caramel mixture evenly over three-fourths of the pretzel; shake off excess (sometimes I lightly 'scrape' the caramel off). Roll the pretzel rod in nuts, turning to coat all sides. Place rods on prepared baking sheet (or wax paper) and let stand about 30 minutes or until caramel is set.
4. In a small saucepan, melt vanilla-flavor candy coating and 1/2 teaspoon of the shortening. In another small saucepan, do the same with the chocolate-flavor candy coating. Or melt the chocolate in the microwave according to package directions. Spoon each candy coating into small resealable plastic bags and cut off a corner of each bag to create a very small hole.
5. Drizzle the candy coating over the pretzel rods. Let stand for 30 minutes or until firm.

Linking up with the Winthrop Chronicles.

Friday Favorites in Five

December 19, 2014

It's Friday - the last Friday before Christmas! Ah!

This week has been pretty busy and I've been trying to go over my to-do list to make sure I have everything done. Which pretty much never happens, but that's okay. Tonight my husband and I are going to a Christmas concert, and I'm pretty excited about it. :) 

If you're like me, you don't plan your 'Christmas Outfit' until the morning of...but you're probably not like me so you would actually have something in mind and planned way before the last possible minute. This Friday Favorites is really more for me (or you too, if you're like me) and I am doing a round-up of the favorite holiday outfits from some of my favorite bloggers. Maybe this will help give a little inspiration!

1. Of course, the plaid scarf is a must. It's the perfect Christmas accessory! (via The Sweetest Thing)

2. Dressing up for the holidays is always festive. I love this bright red skirt! (via Pink Peonies)

3. This looks so cute and comfortable. (via Southern Curls and Pearls)

4. Again with the plaid, but I love the olive green poncho and tan accents. (via Just Dandy)

5. Sequins and tulle = major holiday sparkle! (via Sequins and Things)

So do you have your outfit planned for the upcoming festivities, or do you wait? I never know what I'll feel like wearing that day. I have to feel good about it. That usually means about 5 different outfits that I go through before just saying "just move on, this is fine!" 

Happy Friday!!

December Julep Maven Box

December 17, 2014

Wow, you guys, this is the last Julep Maven Box of the year. Honestly, last month flew by! I know I know, I say that every month...

This month's box was filled with holiday sparkle! I loved it!

The Orbital Eyeshadow in Airglow is SUCH a pretty color. It's a nude shimmer, with soft glitter. It's not chunky, but definitely shows up. Perfect for a special occasion or just if you need a little sparkle in your day. I wore it around the house last weekend. Why  not?

The two nail colors in the box have Christmas written all over them. Ilga, the deep red is beautiful! I have collected a few red shades over the years, but this one is just right. Deep red, but festive. Sienna, the gold shade, is fun and sparkles without being glittery. I like that it is a little more versatile than typical glitter.

All of the Maven boxes are good, but this was was especially fun to get me in the mood for the season! 

Did you get your Julep box this month? If so, let me know what you thought!

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions and comments are my own.

Faux Bun Tutorial

December 15, 2014

The only annoying part about having shorter hair is not being able to put it up in fancy styles or up-do's! With holiday season upon us, I was determined to find a style that worked for my shorter after playing around (a lot) and trying some different things, I landed on this faux bun that seems to work pretty well! It's not a super polished bun, but I'm okay with that.

To start, use a texturizing spray and tease lightly at the crown for more lift. I like this texture spray by Kenra for added hold.

1. Leaving small pieces out at the sides, pull half of your  hair back. 
2. Pull through a small elastic a couple times until tight - don't pull all the way through the last time. Leave the ends in the elastic so it makes a small loop.
3. Do the same thing on the bottom half of your hair - pull through the elastic and make a second loop. Don't worry if it looks really strange here. We'll fix it!
4. Start separating each loop and form a bun shape by combining the loops together. Secure with pins and tuck in any loose pieces of hair until you're happy with the shape.
5. Take the sides that were left out in step #1 and twist.
6. Pull both twisted pieces back and cross over each other. This will hide the elastics and pins - it will also cover the fact that there are two separate loops of hair!
7. Bringing the twisted pieces under the bun, secure with pins.

Finish with a good hairspray to set the style, and your'e done!

It's definitely more of a messy bun on me because of my layers, but you can make it whatever you want it to be! I love that the twist on each side makes it a little more fancy.

Friday Favorites in Five

December 12, 2014

So this week has been pretty Christmas-filled here on the blog, and I'm okay with that. One of my favorite things about the holidays is wrapping gifts. I really enjoy it...mostly because I like making (or trying to make) bows.

There are so many creative ways to wrap gifts now-a-days. I used to just slap a stick-on bow on the gift and call it good. Oh no. That's a no-no in the Pinterest world! Somebody had to go get creative!

Take a look at the top 5 for the week.

1. I have seen greenery on several packages lately, and I love the natural element!

2. Going pink this Christmas? Try adding some gold feather accents. 

3. I love the little jingle bells!

4. Customized gift tags are a great way to gifts gifts a little extra personal touch.

5. Using patterned paper and fun colors really make these packages stand out.

Do you do try to match your tree with the packages or do you do them all different? Have a good weekend!

Remake - Peppermint Crunch

December 10, 2014

I titled this "remake" because I'm not about to take credit for this recipe. It is totally from the master mind at Sally's Baking Addiction...I just had to share because it is absolutely amazing. If you love peppermint then you'll want to go ahead and make two batches of this.

It won't last long enough with just one!

For the recipe, click to visit Sally's blog or read below.

5 cups rice chex cereal
10 oz. white baking chocolate
1 cup crushed candy canes (I used the minis)
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Pour the cereal into a large mixing bowl.
2. Melt the white chocolate per the package directions (I used the microwave).
3. Working quickly, pour the white chocolate over the cereal and mix until the cereal is coated.
4. Immediately mix in the crushed candy canes.
5. In a large zip top bag or covered container, add the powdered sugar. Add the cereal mix to the bag and start shaking until the cereal is coated.

I did an extra step and spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking pan until the chocolate hardened. It took a lot of self control to keep from eating it all right then and there! You should try't walk, run to the store.

For the record - all images in this post are mine, but the recipe is re-written from Sally's Baking Addiction and I am in no way attempting to claim it as my own personal creation.

Christmas Spirit

December 8, 2014

Just in case there was any doubt...I'll just tell you that I really get into Christmas.

The day after Thanksgiving is pretty much reserved for decking the halls. I usually pull most of the bins out of the closet(s) and start putting up decorations one room at a time. Over the years I have tried to get a system down, and it's getting there...kind of. 

Maybe I just need to really go crazy and have 10 trees. Too much?

This is our Dining Room, and I love these mini trees. Last year I just left them bare with white lights, buuuuut this year I decided they needed some sparkle. 

Our home is pretty open, and we have a small table in the Kitchen (which is where we typically find ourselves!) so I like to decorate it a little bit. This simple arrangement is great because it's easy to move out of the way if we have multiple dishes on the table (it's all about function, right?). 

Our Living Room is fun to decorate, because this is the first area you see when you walk in the front door of our home, and when it's cold and we have a big roaring fire going it just begs for a hot chocolate and warm fuzzy slippers.

In our Entry we have this little green table, so I like using mostly white decorations here.

Our second tree is in the Sunroom. It's our "family" tree with all personal or hand-made ornaments from when we were both kids. I love this tree because it is filled with memories, and it's so much fun looking at each ornament and remembering where it came from (or who it came from). I also love the newest addition: this fun metal ice chest! My husband put a little elbow grease into it and removed some paint to reveal the original red. I love the vintage feel it has. Perfect for Christmas too! 

I really want our home to feel warm during Christmas. This year is probably my favorite (so far). Even though I love all kinds of styles and color schemes, I still think my favorite is the traditional red and green. There's something so nostalgic and "Christmasy" about it. 

Here's a question: do you do the same thing every year or do you change it up? Do you try different color schemes or stick to the same one? Every year I always think that I want a change, and usually add a little something here and there. Overall though, I tend to keep the same basic color scheme.

Linking up with Your Designs This Time.

Friday Favorites in Five

December 5, 2014

How was your first week after Thanksgiving? Rough? Yeah, I feel ya. 

It's like there's all of this excitement in the air when you're leaving work heading for a holiday, then as the holiday draws to a close it's just...blah. 

You know what makes it better? Christmas music. :)

source (this is how I feel when I hear Christmas music)

I started listening to Christmas music around the first week of November. No kidding. I took a little break right before Thanksgiving, then fired it up full swing after Thanksgiving. Today's favorites are going to be my top 5 Christmas songs that just make me smile.

1. It's beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. It's just a classic that you need to listen to. It makes me imagine that it's snowing.

2. The First Noel. This is pretty much the Christmas story in a song.

3. I'll Be Home for Christmas. This song makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.

4. O Holy Night. It's such a powerful Christmas song, and such a great reminder of the reason we celebrate.

5. All I Want for Christmas is You, by Mariah Carey. I know there are a lot of people that can't stand this song, but I have no shame. I listen to it a little too loudly and sing at the top of my lungs. 

What's your favorite Christmas song?

Linking up with High Five for Friday.

Roundup: Face Primers

December 3, 2014

There are a lot of people that don't believe in a face primer, but I'm not one of them. I actually can tell a difference when I use primers - especially in how oily my face gets throughout the day. Using a good primer really helps keep my skin under control and helps keep the makeup in place.

Here are some of the primers I've used (not all at the same time, some of these are empty, I don't horde primers in my makeup drawer or anything) and the pros and cons of each one.

1. Neutrogena Shine Control - Great primer for oily skin! I have been using it for a couple months and can tell a noticable difference in my skin throughout the day. My makeup stays in place, and my face isn't nearly as oily by the end of the day. The only downfall is that it has a slightly tacky finish. I find that if I try applying makeup with my fingers it sticks to the primer and pulls. Using a brush I have no issues though.

2. Benefit Stay Flawless - This primer claims to be a 15 hours primer. I honestly wasn't wow'd by it. It feels like your'e applying a glue-like substance to your face, which is kind of weird. It does hold the makeup in place pretty well, but I don't know that it was a major difference than any other primer as far as lasting power. I also didn't find that it did much for my oily skin.

3. Tarte Clean Slate Poreless - Overall this is a solid primer. It's a silicone type product (clear), and gives a smooth finish to the skin. It applies well, makeup goes on smooth, and it does help keep makeup in place. I probably wouldn't buy it again because it didn't offer much shine control, but if you have normal to dry skin it would probably be great.

4. Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser - I feel like this is a great dupe for the Tarte primer or even for the Arbonne primer if you've tried it before. It's a clear silicone, and it blends into the skin well. It helps makeup stay in place, and overall I think it's a good basic primer. Good price too!

5. Laura Mercier Protect Foundation Primer - This primer came in a sample kit, and I haven't tried many of the Laura Mercier products so I was excited to try it. I do like that it has an SPF built in, so for days that I will be in the sun this will be a great product to keep around. It is a cream-like product, so it goes on similar to a lotion. I do think it does the job, but I don't think it would be a top choice (and not sure I would purchase a full size).

6. Revlon Photoready Primer - This was my go-to before I purchased the Neutrogena primer. It's more of a cream-like consistency, and I have found that is probably my favorite type of primer. It doesn't work as well for oily skin as the Neutrogena, but it definitely helps. I also felt like it helped tone down any redness or uneven skin tone.

7. L'Oreal Magic Perfecting Base - If you need something thick, or want to really smooth the skin before applying foundation, this would be a good option. It is more like a mousse, which was a little strange when I first tried it, but it definitely helps smooth uneven texture. I wasn't crazy about the mousse-like texture because it didn't sink into the skin as much as other products. Probably not a re-purchase for me.

Out of all of the above primers, my favorite for my skin type would have to be the Neutrogena. Probably second in line would be a tie between the Maybelline or Revlon...all drug store products! 

Have you tried any of these primers? Have any suggestions? Share below!


Four Bean and Beef Chili

December 1, 2014

Oh my goodness. This chili you guys. It's pretty much my favorite way to make chili.

I really like the concept of chili better than the actual chili. You know, the whole "It's so cold out side! It's the perfect day for a big bowl of hot chili!" concept. 

Don't be discouraged by the list of comes together really fast!

Four Bean and Beef Chili

1 lb. ground beef
1 can chili beans in mild sauce
1 can great northern beans
1 can black beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with chipotle peppers
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 1/2 cups beef stock
1/2 onion - diced
1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp seasoned salt
1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp brown sugar

1. Brown the ground beef with seasonings.
2. Drain the northern, black, kidney beans and diced tomatoes. Add to a slow cooker or large pot. Add the chili beans in mild sauce.
3. Add tomato sauce, onion, beef stock and ground beef. Stir to mix.
4. Allow chili to cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour or continue cooking on low heat until ready to serve. I usually let it cook for a couple hours or stick it in the slow cooker while I'm at work.