A Very Pinteresty Holiday Party

Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a fantastic New Year’s Eve, I’d love to hear how everyone celebrated!  Daniel and I procrastinated, so we ended up just going out for dinner and then watching New Year’s Eve specials while drinking champagne at home.  Even though it was pretty low key, it was one of my favorites thus far!  We realized we had never spent New Year’s in our home!  It was fun to experience something new, and it was also our first New Year’s Eve in Portland!

Now that the holidays are over, I can finally catch my breath and start blogging about everything we did.  If you read my post about holiday party ideas, you know that pretty much all inspiration came from Pinterest.  And now I want to share my results with you!

Christmas Tree Cheese Platter

 

 

Let’s start with food, shall we?  You may remember that I wanted the food to act as the decorations, and I had quite a few examples of festive cheese platters.

You can see I chose to do a combination of all of the examples I found, and did a mixture of salami, cheese, and grapes.  I thought it was pretty cute, and a very quick and easy appetizer to whip up before a party.

Another Christmas-y food I wanted to replicate were these cookie cutter pizzas.  They were adorable, and were a big hit with my guests!  I will say they were a little difficult to work with because they were so small.  If you can find bigger cookie cutters, I think it would be a bit easier.

Cookie Cutter Christmas Pizzas

Because the pizzas were a little hard to make, they took a bit longer than we had planned.  Luckily, we had a backup plan and made one full sized pizza… in the shape of a candy cane!  Equally as delicious and adorable!

Christmas Pizza

Melted Snowmen Gngerbread Cookies

For dessert I made melted snowmen cookies, and they turned out beautifully!  You can find the gingerbread cookie recipe and what I changed on my previous blog post.  The only suggestion I made that I hadn’t tried out at the time was replacing white sugar with brown sugar.  I made that adjustment for the party, but I didn’t notice much of a difference in taste, so you can really use whichever you prefer.

I made a simple royal icing with powdered sugar and a little bit of milk.  I definitely recommend making sure the icing is on the thick side for optimum results.  You can see 3 of the cookies have better coverage, whereas the one in the back is a little see through.  Merely an artistic suggestion, as they were all tasty no matter how the icing looked!

Here are a few more pictures!

Melted Snowmen Cookies

Gingerbread Snowmen Cookies

Before placing the marshmallows on the cookies, we microwaved them for a few seconds to give them a more melty look.  And we used colored gel icing from the baking section at the supermarket for their faces and bodies.  Pretty good for our first try, don’t you think?

Christmas Champagne

If you stumbled on my holiday party ideas board on Pinterest, you may have seen a champagne drink that gained a lot of repins.  So many repins that there was no way I couldn’t try it out at our party!

A very simple drink that had so much wow factor!  I found green colored sugar at the grocery store, which I used to rim the champagne flutes.  I bought pomegranate seeds already deseeded to save on time, put those in the bottom of the glass, filled with champagne – boom, done!  They were seriously too pretty to drink (almost)!

Hot Chocolate Stirring Sticks

I also made party favors for my guests, which sadly I forgot to hand out!  Word of advice:  keep party favors in a prominent place, and near the front door!  Then you won’t have to sheepishly hand them out after like I do.

Other than forgetting to give them out, I was very happy with my results.  Very easy and quick to do!  Because I could only find large candy canes, I used two marshmallows for each (most examples I saw only used one).  Then I just dipped them in melted chocolate and coated them in crushed peppermint candies.

I found these super cute snowmen bags at the Dollar Tree store, and put a hot chocolate stirring stick with a packet of hot chocolate in each bag.  A very nice gesture that doesn’t require a lot of time or expense!

Snowmen Party Favor Bags

White Elephant DIY Present

I also made a white elephant gift, which I was pretty happy with how it turned out.  All I did was Sharpie instructions onto the mugs and baked it in the oven.  I had a hard time getting the Sharpie to come out as dark as the original, but perhaps my pen was just running out of ink.  It was also a little difficult to find dessert in a cup recipes that had good reviews, but I finally found these that seemed to be the best (leave me a comment if anyone wants the recipes!).

Tip:  Apparently people have a lot of trouble getting the Sharpie to actually stay on the mug after normal use and washing.  A few suggestions I found were to increase your oven temperature to 425 and bake for 30 minutes, do not preheat your oven first, and allow the mugs to cool completely in the oven after they’re done baking.  I rubbed the writing pretty hard afterwards, and it seemed like it was on there permanently!

Wine Glass Holiday Table Display

Last but not least, I had shared a holiday decoration with you all and this is how it turned out!  I already had the wine glasses, we saved trimmings from our tree, and I bought the ornaments and candles from the Dollar Tree store.  For a very elegant looking decoration, it only cost $2 and was super easy to setup!

We also used it for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations as well.

Here are a few pictures of our coffee table and main table displays!

Holiday Party Coffee Table Display

Coffee Table Holiday Party Display

Holiday Party Main Table Display

Daniel & Michele After the Holiday PartyLooking back on it now, I probably took on a little too much, especially since it was my first time hosting a party.  But despite a few moments of stress, everything turned out great!  We had blast and so did our guests, so I’d say our first holiday party was a success!


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!


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!


Detox Bath: Home Remedy for Cold & Flu Season

As I sit here writing this post, my boyfriend is sick and I’m starting to feel like I’m catching whatever he has.  Oh no!  Temperatures are dropping outside, it’s wet, and the air is frigid… It’s cold and flu season.  Perhaps even more so for us because we’re transitioning to a new, colder climate!  Well, as I try not to think about that fact, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share what I have come to find as the miracle home remedy for when I’m feeling ill… The detox bath.

I first stumbled upon the detox bath on Pinterest (surprise surprise), where I found my go to recipe on the blog Beauty Bets.

Ginger Detox BathHere’s what you need:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Baking Soda
  • Ground Ginger

Here’s what you do:

  1. Draw a hot bath, as hot as you can possibly stand it.  You want to SWEAT, I mean, seriously sweat.  This will help you release toxins.
  2. The original recipe suggests you add three pints of hydrogen peroxide (3%), but I usually only add about half of a large bottle.  Hydrogen peroxide supposedly helps to oxygenate the body and help expel toxins.  It is also antiviral and antibacterial.
  3. Add about 1 cup of baking soda.  The original recipe does not include baking soda, however, after reading about detox baths on Healthy Living How To I now add it to any bath I take.  Baking soda helps neutralize chemicals (such as chlorine) and increases mineral absorption.
  4. Add 3 tablespoons of ground ginger.  Ginger is anti-inflammatory and helps increase blood circulation.  I’ve taken baths both with and without it, and I found that the ginger definitely helps you sweat more!
  5. Soak in the tub for about 30 minutes, or as long as you can stand it.  PLEASE listen to your own body!  Depending on how I feel, I will soak anywhere from 15 minutes to the full 30 minutes.  Don’t overdo it!
  6. Drink LOTS of water before, during, and after.  You want to replenish your body after sweating out all those toxins.

Tips:  I personally only take detox baths when my boyfriend is home, as you do sweat profusely and can feel a little lightheaded.  Better safe than sorry!  Also, please stand up slowly when getting out of the tub.

When you’re rinsing off, please use only natural soap that is free of harmful chemicals.  You’ve opened your pores from the hot bath and released a bunch of toxins; you don’t want to add them back into your body!

I only take this bath right before bed because it does wear you out, and makes your body will feel a bit like jello.   I usually chug a few glasses of water and go straight to sleep.  And boy, do I sleep!  This bath makes me sleep like a baby, and by the time I wake up I feel SO much better.

I’ve taken this bath during varying degrees of sickness, and I ALWAYS feel some percentage of better the next day.  I’d say somewhere between 75-100% better every single time.  It may just be the placebo effect, or the fact that the bath forces me to drink more water and get a good night’s sleep.  But considering any time I take this bath, a cold that would usually last a few weeks only lasts a couple of days… with those results, I think I’ll continue this home remedy regardless!

Here are a few other variations I often use:

Epsom Salt Detox BathHere’s what you need:

  • Baking soda
  • Epsom salt

Almost all of the directions from above apply to all detox baths.  You want the hottest bath you can stand, you want to drink lots of water, and you want to use chemical free soap when rinsing off.

  1. For this bath, I add about 2 cups of Epsom salt, which helps draw out toxins.  Epsom salt also helps decrease bloating.
  2. I also add about 1 cup of baking soda.  Again, baking soda helps neutralize chemicals.
  3. Soak for about 30 minutes.  I usually take this bath when I’m not feeling well because of my own doing.  Perhaps I’ve been eating too much sugar and junk, or have been drinking a bit too much alcohol.  This bath is great for a general detox to rejuvenate your body.

Lavender Detox BathAnother variation I do is basically the same as the recipe above, but I had 5-10 drops of lavender oil to the bath.  I especially like this bath when I feel bloated or stressed out (or both!).  Lavender has a calming effect and, again, Epsom salt is great for decreasing bloat.

In case you need some extra help, here are a few other things I do when I’m sick:  I up my intake of Vitamin C, and I take Goldenseal Echinacea drops three times a day.  You can find Goldenseal at most health food stores, I bought mine at Whole Foods.

Well, I think I’ll definitely be taking my general detox bath tonight.  Hopefully that will prevent me from fully catching my boyfriend’s illness!  I hope these detox baths help you survive cold and flu season!

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, and these recipes are only suggestions of remedies that work for me.  They are not intended as a diagnosis or prescription, and should not be in place of medical treatment and/or advice from a professional.  Please always consult your doctor first before trying any home remedies.


Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I hope you all finished your costumes in time and got a chance to carve your pumpkins!

We carved ours last week before we left for a romantic getaway in Rockaway Beach in Oregon!  I can’t wait to tell you all the best spots to visit!

Pumpkin Carvings

I carved Boo and Daniel carved Edgar Allan Poe!  We found these great patterns on Zombie Pumpkins.  This site has an enormous selection of pumpkin patterns in a variety of categories, and they range from easy to difficult.  For just $5 we were able to download 25 patterns – such a deal!  We now have enough patterns to last us many Halloweens.

Well, I just wanted to say a quick hello and a Happy Halloween.  I hope you all have a fun and safe night tonight!  I should have my next round of apple recipes up soon, so stay tuned!