Christmas Recipes for Dinner & Breakfast

This year, Daniel and I will be spending the holiday in Portland, just the two of us (three if you count our cat, which we do!).  We were fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving with Daniel’s family and Christmas last year with mine.  While we will both miss our families this holiday, we are also both looking forward to having a quiet Christmas to ourselves sans traveling!  As our relationship has progressed, we have been having fun sharing our families’ traditions and coming up with new traditions of our own.  That’s actually one of the fun things about getting older, I think, is starting to create your own traditions like your parents did when they were your age!  Since we’re on our own this year, it’s the perfect opportunity to try some new ones out (and see if they’re awesome enough to make a tradition)!

A couple of years ago we started making ourselves fancy dinners on Easter, and we decided to do the same on Christmas Eve this year.  I haven’t tried these recipes out yet, and I will definitely blog about my results after, but I wanted to share them now anyway in case any of you are looking for ideas.  We toyed with a few different options, you can see my massive amount of pinning on my Christmas recipes board, but we narrowed it down to either making lasagna/stuffed shells or a pot roast with a couple of elaborate side dishes.

Spinach and Prosciutto LasagnaWe chose to make a spinach and proscuitto lasagna, and pair it with a simple salad and garlic bread.  As much as I really wanted to go all out with our dinner, we’ve both been pretty stressed out trying to get everything done for the holiday, social commitments, and work.  So we decided to take it easy on ourselves and do something a little easy.

Based on some of the reviews, I plan to cut out the salt because a lot of people complained the lasagna was too salty.  Proscuitto alone should provide enough flavor.  I also plan to use full fat mozzarella and ricotta cheese, mainly because I’ve used reduced fat in lasagna before and it didn’t turn out well.  I will also be adding more spices, herbs, and garlic and I’m going to double the recipe as well.  We like lots of leftovers in this household!

Also, because I’m a little cheesy, I’m totally going to make a Christmas tree out of bell peppers to top our lasagna with!  Oh, the things you find on Pinterest!

Christmas Tree Lasagna Topper

Some of you may remember that Daniel and I went wine tasting in Forest Grove, OR, and purchased a bottle of “Holiday Magic Wine” (gluhwein) from Shafer Vineyard Cellars.  We decided to save it for Christmas Eve, so we will be having that with our dinner!

Peppermint Bark CheesecakeWe will most likely be purchasing a dessert to cutback on stress, but I’m still toying with the idea of making this peppermint bark cheesecake.  It just looks so amazing!  I may have to keep the ingredients on hand in case I get a second wind after our holiday party is over!

Even if we don’t bake a dessert from scratch, we will definitely be making homemade hot chocolate to sip on while unwrapping gifts and watching Christmas movies!  This is a great basic recipe – we will either add bourbon like the recipe suggests, or we may add tequila and cayenne pepper to make it Mexican hot chocolate!

Well, that takes care of Christmas Eve, now on to Christmas Day!  Truth be told, I’ve always wanted to have a lazy Christmas day, but never had one… it’s always involved traveling in some way.  I’m pretty excited to stay in pajamas most of the day and watch Christmas movies with Daniel, we may even go see a matinee that opens on Christmas day (which Daniel’s never done before)!

Baked French ToastI wanted to have a fancy breakfast this year too, but didn’t want anything too crazy so we could sleep in and have a super relaxing day.  I grew up eating french toast far more than pancakes, and yet in my adult life I never seem to eat them anymore!  The up side of that is… it makes the dish a bit more special, therefore making it a great option for Christmas morning!  I’ve never tried this method of baking it in the oven, but I decided I’m going to try it, since it would be quick and everything would be done at the same time.  I’m also going to bake bacon in the oven for the first time, which apparently will produce perfectly crispy, no-mess bacon!  We shall see!

To top it all off, we will be enjoying cranberry mimosas!  It’s simply 1/2 cranberry juice and 1/2 orange juice.  I love how festive it looks!

Cranberry Mimosas

Well, these were just a few of the recipes I found, be sure to check out my board for more ideas for your dinner and breakfast Christmas recipes!


Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas & Inspiration

I can’t believe Christmas is only a week away!  If feels like everything having to do with the holiday has been a scramble this year, and wrapping presents is no different.  I’ve mentioned before that I love to make gift wrap just as meaningful as the gift I’m giving, so I always put in a lot of time and energy when it comes to wrapping.  I usually find most of my ideas and inspiration on Pinterest (surprise, surprise), which you can see on my board.  There isn’t an extreme about of pins, so here are some examples of presents I’ve wrapped in the past.  Enjoy!

Musical Christmas Gift Wrap

I sometimes like to hint at what could be inside the wrapping, and this present was a CD!  All I did was print out free sheet music of Jingle Bells onto some pretty resume paper I had, then I attached a few small bells to ribbon and tied a bow.  This was one of my favorite wrapping ideas, and I loved how it came out!  You can usually find bells at any craft store, especially during the holidays.

Daniel and I have always loved Disneyland ever since we began dating, and we ended up gravitating towards Minnie and Mickey (as most couples do).  I usually like to throw in something of them when I’m wrapping gifts for Daniel.  I found this brown gift bag at Target and wanted to make it a bit more personal.  So I found this super cute photo of Minnie and Mickey, printed it out on cardstock and made a gift tag!

Minnie and Mickey Mouse Christmas Gift Tag

Disney Christmas Gift Tag

Another year I used the same photo as the main event!

Disney Christmas Wrapping Ideas

Penguin Christmas Wrapping

I often reuse wrapping from packages, such as brown paper from Amazon shipments.  This penguin tissue paper came in a pair of shoes Daniel bought from Penguin clothing company.  I thought it was way too adorable to throw out, and it ended up being the perfect size for a small gift I had!

Sometimes all you need is a variety of ribbons and bows to make standout gift wrapping.  I especially like this basket weave technique because of how clean and modern it looks.

Basket Weave Christmas Ribbon

I made this big bow with some wrapping paper scraps!

DIY Gift Bow

Here are a few more examples of things you can do with ribbons and bows!

Christmas Wrapping Ideas

Blue Christmas Wrapping

Blue Christmas Wrapping

Ideas for Christmas Wrapping

I found this fun plaid wrapping paper at a 99 cent store!  I’ve often found great wrapping and trimmings at discount stores, and Daniel and I always take a trip to Target after Christmas.  The sales can be amazing, we’ve found things as low as 60 cents!  It’s a great way to stock up for next year!

Gift Wrapping Ideas for Christmas

Red Ribbon and Brown Paper Christmas Wrapping

Sometimes I like to choose a theme when wrapping, you can see here I chose brown paper and red ribbon as my theme.  This gave a very nice elegance to my presents, and I thought it could work for both men and women.

I also like to play with different color combinations.  I did green on green here!

Green on Green Christmas Wrapping

I was going for more masculine colors when I did this brown and gold combination.

Brown and Gold Christmas Wrapping

At some point during our relationship, coloring books became a “thing” for us.  One year I was giving Daniel a gift certificate, but I wanted to present it in a meaningful way.  So I decided to make my own envelope using a coloring book page (featuring Minnie and Mickey, of course)!  I used this template and it turned out great, take a look!

DIY Coloring Book Envelope

This would also be great for homemade cards!

Disney Coloring Book Envelope

Well, I’m happy to say that I only have a few gifts left to wrap, and I will hopefully be done before the weekend!  I hope all of you out there are finding time to relax amidst the holiday rush, and hopefully this helped you find some gift wrapping ideas and inspiration!


Places We’ve Been DIY Christmas Gift

I’m sure many of you saw my original post for this project, but I wanted to re-share it with you all, because it would make a great DIY Christmas gift for your girlfriend/boyfriend or wife/husband.  It’s easy, quick, and inexpensive!  But it has so much meaning behind it, I know anyone would love to receive it.  I know Daniel did!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 pieces of Matboard, both at least 12×12 inches
  • Mod Podge (or any glue you prefer)
  • Sharp scissors
  • A heart stencil
  • 12 printed maps
  • 12×12 picture frame
  • Cardstock, or any thick paper (optional)

Obviously this project is all about the maps, so the first thing I did was figure out how I wanted them to look.  I did this DIY right before moving to Portland, so I was working on limited time and a small budget.  Because of that, I personally chose to use Google Maps and print them out at home.  I also chose to use Google Maps because I wanted to control the zoom of each map and what would be seen within the heart.  You could also use an Atlas, Thomas Guide, or look for old maps at a thrift store!

DIY Heart Maps

Because we were about to move from Los Angeles to a new home in Portland, I chose to include a map of the neighborhood we dearly loved but had to leave behind.  You can use any heart stencil you’d like – as for me, I didn’t have one (remember that whole uncrafty crafter thing?).  So I just searched for an image of a heart I liked and printed it out on cardstock, thus making my own stencil!

DIY Heart Maps

I stenciled and cut out each heart, and before I knew it, I had perfect little sentimental maps laid out before me.  This is the moment when I got really excited because I knew the project was going to turn out just as I had imagined it!  At the widest part of the heart it measured 2 1/2″, and from the top point to the bottom point it measured 2 3/4″.  This size worked perfectly for me based on 12 hearts and a 12×12 frame.  You’ll want to adjust the sizes depending on how many hearts you’re planning on using.

Next, I pasted each heart on a piece of matboard with Mod Podge and then cut out each heart again.  The reason I did this is because I wanted the hearts to have a 3D effect.  I used a pair of scissors to do this, and even though they were REALLY dull, it was still fairly easy to cut through the matboard.  With sharp scissors it should be a breeze, but use whatever cutting tool works best for you!

DIY Heart Maps

I tried to get fancy and penciled in a mathematical grid onto the matboard to try and ensure all the hearts would line up perfectly.  It…mostly worked.  The grid was totally wrong, but it still helped me eyeball them into the right placement!

I pasted each heart onto a 12×12 piece of matboard using Mod Podge (you will most likely have to cut your matboard down to size), and weighed it down with heavy books for about 48 hours to make sure the edges wouldn’t curl up.  As for placement, I arranged the maps mainly by how they looked, not by chronological order.  I didn’t want two mostly blue hearts next to each other, same with the green, I also wanted to make sure our neighborhood heart was kind of in the middle, and because a lot of the places we visited were in California and on the East Coast, I tried to vary those from each other as well.

DIY Heart MapsAfter that, all that was left was putting the finished project in a frame!  I really liked the idea of a white picture frame, since almost all the frames in our house are black.  Apparently white frames aren’t very popular.  I searched for a LONG time to find the perfect white 12×12 frame, and still didn’t have that many options.  In the end, I decided to go with this frame, and I am more than pleased with it.  It’s not the highest quality frame I’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t look cheap and feels very sturdy.

So, here it is, my completed DIY Places We’ve Been Heart Maps!

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of mine and the original inspiration on Etsy.  What do you think?  I really loved how it turned out.  In total it only cost me about $20, easier on my wallet than $500!

DIY Heart Maps vs. Pinspiration

Bonus:  The Gift Wrap!

Anniversary Gift Wrapping

I love to make gift wrapping just as meaningful as the gift itself, and I thought I’d share what I did in case anyone is looking for some wrapping inspiration.

All I did was take brown packing paper (which came from an Amazon shipment), and with a black Sharpie wrote the lyrics from our song in cursive (in case you’re wondering, our song is “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” by Elvis Presley).  Simple as that!  This was originally a gift for our anniversary, which is why I chose to use lyrics from our song.  That could also work for Christmas since it’s a romantic gift and a romantic holiday, but you could also write Christmas lyrics to make it more festive.

There you have it!  I hope this tutorial gave you all inspiration to make your own DIY Christmas gift!


Christmas Tree Farm near Portland, Oregon

Oregon Christmas Tree FarmI am so excited to finally say that Daniel and I have our Christmas tree up, and our house is all decorated for the holiday!  It finally feels like Christmas time!  We usually get our trees from a lot near our house, but this year we decided to go to a Christmas tree farm.  I mean, we are in Oregon after all!  I did some quick research and found three farms, all about 20-30 minutes outside of Portland.

One I found was the Sauvie Island Farms, which we decided not to go to because we went to a pumpkin patch on Sauvie Island durin the fall.  We figured it would be fun to go somewhere we haven’t been before.  Our other two options were Quail Creek Ranch and Plumber Pumpkin Patch and Tree Farm.

We chose to go to Quail Creek Ranch because it looked beautiful.  Take a look!

Christmas Tree Farm

Quail Creek Ranch

Daniel and Michele - Quail Creek Ranch

Unlike Plumber Farms, basically everything was free at Quail Creek Ranch (except the trees, of course)!  They provide saws if you want to cut your own tree, but they will also cut them down for you free of charge too.  They also shake, bail, twine, and help tie your tree to your car for free as well!  That was all I really needed to hear to make my decision.  I guess I’m a sucker for the word free!

They also serve complimentary hot chocolate and cider by a big, warm bonfire!

Bonfire at Quail Creek Ranch

Daniel Cutting Down the Christmas TreeWe decided to cut our own tree, since I had never done that before, and Daniel hadn’t in a really long time (ok, maybe Daniel did the cutting).  Plus, now that we’re Oregonians, we wanted to do it the lumberjack way!  There was even some snow on the ground, so it really felt legit!

Quail Creek Ranch has a variety of trees – Douglas Firs ranging from $15-$25, Grand Firs ranging from $20-$35, and Nobles ranging from $50-$100.  We found our tree after searching the farm for about 30 minutes, and we chose a douglas fir this year.  Ours was over 4 feet tall, so it was $25 – not too shabby!  Way better than the $80 we always had to spend in Hollywood!

Daniel & Michele at the Christmas Tree FarmEveryone at the farm was very friendly and helpful.  All the little complimentary touches really added in making our experience wonderful.  If you haven’t gotten your tree yet, I highly recommend visiting Quail Creek Ranch!  And don’t forget to grab a candy cane on your way out!

Tip:  They don’t really have much of a selection of tree stands, so you will want to pick one up before you go.  We got ours at our local Fred Meyer!

Here’s our tree all decorated!

Decorated Christmas Tree

Donut Christmas Tree Ornament

 

We have a tradition of buying a new ornament each year, and this year it was a donut!  What are some of your traditions?


Holiday Party Ideas for Christmas

Tis the season for holiday parties, and Daniel and I will be throwing our first one this year!  If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ll see I’ve been fervently pinning holiday party ideas like crazy.  While I’m still pinning last minute ideas, we had to finalize our menu and activities so we could get our invites out.

If you want more ideas, definitely check out my holiday party ideas board, but here’s what we’ve decided on… We will be throwing a Christmas sweater (ugly optional), white elephant, finger food potluck!  The reason why an ugly sweater is optional is because Daniel bought a sweater that isn’t technically ugly, and I haven’t bought mine yet… So who knows what I’ll find!

Brownie in a Cup White Elephant GiftI’ve always enjoyed playing white elephant at holiday parties, and it’s fun to see how creative people get with their gifts!  We chose to put a $10 limit on gifts, mainly because we don’t want anyone to feel obligated to spend too much.  I thought this would be a fun gift to give and very easy to do!  You could most likely find white mugs at a dollar store, then all you have to do is Sharpie the instructions on the mug!  Most tutorials I’ve seen say to bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  I’m thinking of adding a second mug and writing the “cookie in a mug” instructions so they can be a pair!

After searching through pins, I decided that I was a huge fan of food being the decorations.  I saw these great appetizer ideas, which provided most of my inspiration.

Christmas Tree Cheese Platter

Grape and Cheese Christmas Tree Platter

Meat and Cheese Christmas Tree Platter

We plan to do combination of all of the these!

Wine Glass Holiday Decorations

 

While the food will be the decorations on the main table, I plan to do this on our coffee table.  It’s going to be so easy and yet so chic!  Daniel also had a great idea to use some of our tree clippings to surround the wine glasses!  I plan on getting the candles and some new ornaments at the Dollar Store!

For our main course we will be serving cookie cutter pizzas.  These are actually the reason I chose to make it a finger food potluck.  They were just too cute and festive, I was smitten with them as soon as I saw them!

Cookie Cutter Christmas Pizzas

If you happen to be strapped for time though (which we might be), you could also just make full size pizzas like these.

Full Size Veggie Holiday Pizza

Full Size Holiday Pizzas

I saw these melted snowman cookies all over Instragram, and I think they will be a hit for dessert!

Melted Snowman Christmas Cookies

Melted Snowmen Cookies

Melted Snowman Cookies

Gingerbread CookiesIt looks like they are usually sugar cookies, but I plan to switch it up and make gingerbread cookies instead.  I think it would be more Christmas-y, and they will also look like the ground the snowmen melted on!  Daniel and I made gingerbread cookies last week so we could test a recipe out, and it was a winner!  We used the Nauvoo Gingerbread Cookie recipe, and here it is with my changes.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tbsp softened butter
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

We halved the recipe and it made about 30 cookies.  The original recipe called for lard, but we replaced it with butter, because ew.  It also uses white sugar, which we ended up using, but for the party I’ll be using brown sugar because I think it will give it more dimension.  I also added a few new spices and upped the amount on others

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, molasses, butter and hot water.  Mix in egg.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until dough forms.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm.
  2. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well-floured surface.  Cut out shapes with cookies cutters, and place cookies onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes and then cool on cooling racks.

We iced ours with royal icing and they were delicious!

Pomegranate Champagne Christmas DrinksOf course, we also need drinks at our party!  I saw this awesome looking pin, which has since been repinned over 100 times from me!  I clearly have to do it now.  The original pin was a broken link and didn’t have any information, but I’m pretty sure those are pomegranate seeds at the bottom, glasses are filled with champagne, and coarse green sugar is rimming the top.  If you buy ready to use pomegranate seeds, this drink will take no time at all, yet looks super impressive!

Another drink we’ll be serving is, of course, eggnog!  Which happens to be Daniel’s specialty, and the recipe he uses is amazing.

Here’s what you need:

  •  6 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground or grated

Begin with pre-chilled ingredients for the best results.

Here’s what you do:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs together until they’re very frothy.  Add sugar and continue beating.
  2. Sprinkle in nutmeg and vanilla, continue beating.  A little at a time, add in the whipping cream and continue to beat.
  3. Beat in the milk also a little at a time.  Lastly, beat in the rum and brandy.
  4. Chill for 1-2 hours and serve cold.

Hot Chocolate Stirring SticksLast but not least – party favors!  I’ve never hosted a dinner party before, or been to one that gave out favors, but I personally think it’s a nice touch.  I also think that homemade gifts are often the best kind, and these hot chocolate stirring sticks seemed like a great choice!  I think they will be fairly easy and fast to make – we plan to pop a few in a cellophane bag with a pack of hot cocoa!

Other than white elephant, we also plan to play board games, and if we want to get a little rowdy… a Christmas Vacation drinking game!  We will also have a variety of santa hats and other Christmas costume pieces, for anyone that wants to take photobooth-esque pictures.

I hope this gave you a few ideas for your party, and if you want more, remember to check out my Holiday Party Ideas on Pinterest.  I can’t wait to show you all how everything turned out!  Happy Planning!