December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas + Happy New Year

Last  night TJ and I went to the Denver Zoo Lights, and then ordered sushi and made Christmas cookies. Traditions in the making people, traditions in the making ...

I'm taking the rest of this week off from blogging to regroup and focus on my wants and needs for myself and this blog in the New Year. In the interim, if you could help me out by taking a quick moment to answer the questions below, I'd really appreciate it!

I'll be back on January 1st! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year :) 


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December 23, 2013

One Of My Favorite Holiday Memories

One of my favorite holiday memories reflects back on the times when I would take a yearly bus trip to NYC with my mother and grandmother each December.

About 50 or so of us would hop onto a chartered bus super early in the morning, and we'd arrived in New York City around 7am. The day was filled with shopping on Canal Street, gawking at the stores on 5th Avenue, eating at a fancy restaurant (which I'm sure wasn't truly "fancy", but felt like it because it was in NYC!), taking in the sights and lights and sounds, and making sure to catch the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular.

New York City's Five Boroughs || An infographic by the team at Marriott New York
Marriott International is a leading hospitality company with over 3,800 properties in over 74 countries and territories around the world.

I'm not sure how we packed so much fun in before we boarded the bus at 10pm, but I think that all of the rushing around just added to the excitement of the day! It was true and pure holiday magic, and the memories continue to make my heart smile.

(1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6)

When I reflect on Christmas's past, I love that all of my absolute favorite holiday memories have nothing to do with gifts ... they all revolve around good holiday fun, and quality time spent with family and friends.

So to anyone who is worrying about whether you've picked out the perfect present, or who is stressed out because you haven't found a gift yet and Christmas is only a couple of days away ... I bet if you reflect back on your own childhood you will remember that your favorite holiday memories have nothing to do with presents, but have everything to do with who you were present with.

Tell me in a comment below:
What is your absolute favorite holiday memory?

I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, however all content and opinions expressed here are my own.


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December 21, 2013

Establishing Holiday Traditions

So this is totally crazy considering this is my seventh Christmas with TJ - but we haven't started or created any special holiday traditions together! None, zip, zero, zilch.

For the first three years he spent Christmas with his family and I spent it with mine, and then we kind of just "winged it" ("wanged it?" lol) for the two years after that, and then last year, our first Christmas as a married couple, he went over to Germany before I did, and we didn't get to spend the holiday together. Sad face.

So technically, this is our first Christmas together as a married couple and I'm realllllllly looking forward to establishing a few special traditions that we can carry on for years to come.

But where do we start? I feel like we're marking history in stone this year, it needs to be special, you know what I mean?

So far we're thinking of having a little cookie decorating day, hunting for a special ornament keepsake, maybe finding a neighborhood to drive through to take in some Christmas lights (God I hope none of his teammates ever find my blog, lol) ... but what else should we do? What do you do?

I asked the lovely girls who are on my sidebar this month what their favorite holiday traditions are, and they gave me the following fun and unique ideas to consider and run off of:

One thing that I know is probably different is in my family we ALWAYS eat dessert before dinner. Our theory has always been that if you eat dessert first you don't have to worry about saving room for it while you eat dinner. I know that this is odd and it has taken time for the married-into-the-family folks to get on board. We always eat it again after so who doesn't love dessert twice? 

Sara from Life as a Hughes || twitter / instagram / pinterest

Every year after Christmas Eve Mass, my family meets at my grandparents for Christmas Eve dinner. Back when we were kids we would all go outside and look for Rudolph's nose after dinner. My dad was the only one who could ever see it, but when he DID see it, all of the kids scrammed to the basement to pretend to be asleep for Santa's arrival. When he arrived, he would stomp and ring his bells and talk to the adults, and he would leave gifts for us to open. Even though the secret's out now, I still sometimes wish I could go back to the days of hiding in a basement closet, hoping Santa didn't actually check my bed.
On my side of the family Christmas Eve is the biggy for us! All of the extended family that are visiting or still live here in Alaska (that is between 30-60ish people), get together at my grandparent’s house for food, games, and the classic Nativity Play that most participate in. It’s always fun to have, what some of us call, “sweat-togethers” with my huge family! I’m going to miss it this year though, because I will be spending Christmas with my husband’s family for the first time! I’m excited to see what their traditions are and see how my husband and I can incorporate both traditions when we decide to start our family! 

We start each holiday season with going up to the mountains to pick a tree and then continue to make the month magical by doing a book advent calendar, reading under the christmas tree with hot chocolate, making christmas ornaments etc. We also each pick out one new ornament for our tree every year, and after 7 years have quite the interesting collection! 

- Darlene from Young Mama Tales || twitter / instagram / pinterest

My husband and I love Christmas and have way too many traditions that we like, but my favorite one has to be watching The Polar Express. Since our first Christmas together we always set a date to watch the movie snuggled up on the couch. We make popcorn and drink glass bottle Coca-Cola. Half way through the movie we pause it and make delicious hot cocoa. That is definitely my favorite tradition and I hope it keeps going for many many years.

- Melissa from Blush and Jelly || shop / twitter / facebook

My husband and I just got married this past October, but as a kid my mom always bought my brother and I Christmas PJs and put a star on the wrapped gift. Every year she'd ask, "Who wants to open a present?" But would only let us open that starred gift, and it was ALWAYS the Christmas Jammies. Last year I carried on that tradition with my now husband, and I can't wait to do it again this year! I am still looking for the perfect Christmas PJs for him.

- Brittany from Happy Is A Choice || twitter / instagram / pinterest

My husband and I have been married two years, and most of the time we have been moving during the holidays so we don't have any traditions. I guess moving would be a tradition, but we are staying in sunny Arizona for the holidays!! One thing that I have always done is look at Christmas lights. I love seeing what people come up every year.

My immediate family (parents + brother) and I take food (sandwiches, snacks, and drinks) to an area hospice each Christmas Eve in memory of my grandmother who passed away at the facility on Christmas Eve 2003. Time is precious, especially at the end -- we were grateful for those that brought food so we wouldn't have to leave even for a few minutes, so we've paid it forward each year since.

- Christina from Route Bliss || twitter / facebook / instagram
Morning: A caloric breakfast of champions sporting sweet Santa hats, followed by taking our dog Stuart on a long walk through Heidelberg's old town. Midday: Open a bottle of red and begin baking my Grandma's famous thumbprint cookies and then our Holiday movie marathon begins. Evening: Out of the kitchen and off to dinner at a swanky Tandoori Indian restaurant down the street that we've always wanted to try followed by skype sessions with friends and family.

On Christmas Day my dad and I traditionally go on a hiking trip into the mountains. This usually involves the two of us getting some pea soup at a roadside cafĂ© before wading through snow that’s hip high. It might not sound like much fun to the outsider, but it’s quality time spend with my dad. After our hike, we usually return home to a nice, warm living room with our beautiful Christmas tree in it and my mum waiting with our dinner.

- Miriam from CL&I || facebook / instagram / pinterest
A tradition that we have on my mom’s side of the family is getting all of the girls in our family together for a sleepover a few weeks before Christmas to play games, eat, and watch Christmas movies. We have done it for the past 10+ years and it is something we will continue to do as long as we can.

- Melissa from Two Miracles || facebook / twitter / instagram

I LOVE all holidays but Christmas holds a special place in my heart. Every year as soon as Halloween is over I am in full on Christmas mode. I started the 'Elf on a Shelf' tradition with my nieces last December and it is quickly becoming one of my favourite traditions. The girls are always wondering what Candy Cane will be up to next and I love how into it they are!

Do you have any special or unique Christmas/Holiday traditions? 
If so, leave them in a comment below :)


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December 18, 2013

Easy Eats // Festive Tortellini Salad

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Barilla, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #JoytotheTable


Christmas is ONE week away. One week! (in case you forgot)

I spent all of yesterday dashing around town to find an Ugly Christmas Sweater, dancing through stores to finish up Christmas shopping, and then prancing through Safeway at 6PM to pick up a package of Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini so that I could whip up one of my favorite "easy eats" for dinner.

With all of the rushing around that I anticipate you will be doing over the next week (yes. week. aaaah!), I thought that it would be much appreciated if I shared the recipe that I made last night. It's one of my absolute favorites because it's super yummy and can be on the dinner table in less than an hour.

1 package of Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini (shop at Safeway and receive $.75 off!)
cherry tomatoes
green olives
mozzarella balls
1 cup of your favorite Italian dressing
baby spinach
(amounts of each can be added to your liking!)

Prepare tortellini as directed on the package. Rinse with cold water.

Place cold tortellini, cherry tomatoes, green olives and mozzarella balls in a medium bowl. Pour in Italian dressing, and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Mix in pepperoni and baby spinach right before serving.

The combination of carbs, veggies, meat and cheese basically makes this dish a perfect meal ... and it just so happens that the colors match typical green and red holiday decor perfectly ;) And because nothing says "paaaaaar-taaaaay" quite like an appetizer on a stick (come on, I know you have at least ONE of them pinned on Pinterest!) you can also whip this up and make it fancy in a flash for your upcoming holiday get-together simply by threading each ingredient onto a wooden skewer.

Are you hosting or attending an upcoming holiday party?
Visit Barilla on Facebook to find a recipe to take along!

Do you already have a go-to favorite festive dish? Please share it in a comment below!

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December 17, 2013

Be A Smart Cookie

It's officially that time of the year where parties, presents, family, friends, food and treats take over much of many people's lives. And since I live in the real world, where avoiding cookies this month simply isn't an option, I decided to research and collect sixteen festive cookie craving options that will satisfy the sweettooth without sabotaging the waistline.

Chocolate Coconut Meringues (36 cals), Cherry Surprise (97 cals), Dark Chocolate Turtles (80 cals), Candy Cane Cookies (90 cals)
Peppermint Patties (71 cals), Peppermint Biscotti (57 cals), Chocolate Pistachio (54 cals), Coconut Macaroons (52 cals)
Mint Chocolate Chip (72 cals), Chocolate Thumbprints (80 cals), Gingerbread (66 cals), Mint Meringue Kisses (47 cals)
Brown Sugar Cookies (62 cals), Ganache Sandwiches (53 cals), Sugar Free Sugar Cookies (57 cals), Peppermint Meringue (7 cals)

Do you have a favorite Christmas cookie?
Have you signed up for The Bod Squad yet? The DietBet pot is now up to $375, the Bod Squad Facebook community is growing, and I think this challenge is going to be a very motivating, healthy and fun way to kick off the New Year :)


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Today I'd like to introduce you to this month's featured sponsor, Melissa from Two Miracles

Tell us a little bit about yourself... My name is Melissa, I am 26 years old. I have been married to my highschool sweetheart, Matt for 5 years. We have twin daughters who are 4 and have an amazing birth story. They truly are miracles. We have 1 dog named Brutus. I love photography, playing games, softball, and college football.

Why did you start blogging? I started blogging after I had my girls 3 months premature. They were born at 26 weeks and I wanted a way for family and friends to keep up with everything that was going on. In all honestly, it was too hard to tell the same things over and over so I thought this would be a way for everyone to see and not ask.

What are three of your favorite posts? My First, Second, and Third

What are your favorite topics to blog about? I love to blog about parentingpreemiesDIY, and fitness.

Describe your perfect day from start to finish. My perfect day would be being able to sleep in, waking up to breakfast being cooked, and just spending the say watching movies and cuddling with my family. I am a big homebody so staying at home with my family means more than going to some fancy dinner and a movie. I would rather just stay at home and do all those things without spending a ton of money.

Connect with Melissa on her Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Bloglovin'