family, friends, holidays, reviews, thankful, thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, wine, friends & family time

Over the last few years Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. As a child I looked forward to my birthday, Christmas Eve, and trying to stay up until midnight on New Years Eve. Sure, Thanksgiving had pumpkin pie but it didn’t hold much excitement until I went away to college and it was the first holiday home. Getting to sit around the table with all my family, fighting over the last of my grandmother’s infamous stuffing, waiting for coffee to be poured, biscotti to be dipped, and stories to be told, there really was no place like home.

When Joey and I first started living together, Thanksgiving was the first holiday we hosted, really making the house into our home. Now we deep fry our turkey every year, I make my grandmother’s stuffing, and the dogs hope food falls on the floor. We make all the food at our house and then transport it to my Mom’s. This way we don’t have to do a crazy family style deep cleaning of the house or worry about setting the table and all the clean up. I get to do what I love (cook) and my Mom can clean (which she loves) and host.

my grandma’s stuffing ready to bake!

traditional antipasto tray
Let’s be real though. While this is all sweet and warm like a nice hot toddy, it definitely can be a stressful and crazy time trying to get everything ready. This year we did a Friendsgiving along with our normal Thursday meal so it was double the prep. Joey ended up going back to the store about three times because of things I forgot. So what got me to relax and enjoy it all?

Wine. Lot’s of wine.


I was lucky enough to have some Little Black Dress wine to share with my girlfriends and a charcuterie board. LBD sent me a complimentary Diva Red and the Pinot Grigio to try and we all loved them!! I loved the Diva Red’s flavor, with hints of cinnamon and chocolate. My girlfriends finished the Pinto Grigio in no time, loving the crisp citrus taste of tangerine, apple, melon, and lemongrass. Honestly, I loved the wine, the name, and how fun it was to drink with my girlfriends. I love how it really adds to the atmosphere of whatever we’re doing. Each bottle is $11.99, an excellent price point, especially when you’re buying 3-4 bottles.

So all in all, it was an amazing Thanksgiving with family and friends. Tons of foods, family, love, laughter, and craziness. I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Plus, Barbara and my Grandmother wearing matching pearl outfits?

Priceless.

christmas, family, happy, holiday, holidays, home, italian, joeywaffles, kansas city, love, taylor swift, xmas

Wednesday is the new Monday

Christmas 2014

So my holiday 4 day weekend was busy and fun and went by too fast! Don’t they all though? I spent it shopping, Christmas tree decorating, removing bathroom floor tile, playing Tetris Attack with JoeyWaffles, and just enjoying time at home, I missed posting my Monday Must Haves but since it’s my blog, this week it’s going to be on Wednesday. Bear with me the next few weeks because life is crazy around the holidays. I have to finish shopping, find shoes for my company holiday party, clean the house, make Christmas cookies, get end of the year stuff done at work and so on and so on. Blogging is such a great outlet to relax, be inspired, and reflect. I love my cozy office so maybe I’ll end up writing more.

Now on to the Must Have’s!

When I was younger, we had a lot of Christmas traditions that I sadly no longer do but really loved. We always drove out to the boonies to a tree farm to pick and cut our own tree. We would get dessert at the same local spot and then get to play video games at this crazy arcade. I always spent my $5 on the crane/claw machines and had to wait patiently for my brother to go through his which took forever. We would read from the bible, ever year a different gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and light the advent wreathe. We also took the ubiquitous holiday family photo in front of the tree, although the year we had the chicken Betsy and the dogs was rather memorable.
So while I no longer have those traditions, there are still a bunch that are going strong and are what Christmas means to me. I have added a few others the older I get so read and enjoy!

Christmas Crime Scene Tape: When we were little and always wanted to peek at the tree, my Dad came up with the idea that the Elves would block off the tree and if we crossed it, we wouldn’t get the gifts. That wasn’t really the point, it was really how funny the signs were and still are to this day. There is usually a theme and now with FB my Dad has all year to collect photos and embarrass us. The youngest person gets to cut the tape, or ribbon if we can’t find any. Then we race to the stockings and Christmas can begin!
The Santa Claus: This is my favorite Christmas movie, I actually love all three in the series. They are funny and silly and sweet and I love Tim Allen. When JoeyWaffles and I were first hanging out and it was Christmas and I mentioned how much I loved them, he downloaded all three and watched the first one with me one night all cuddled up. The fact that I had mentioned it in passing and he remembered and surprised me was one of the million reasons I fell in love with him. There is nothing better then watching this while cuddling with him and all the animals, the soft lights of the Christmas tree, and a soft blanket on us. This is probably our first Christmas tradition so I really cherish it.
MiMi’s Peanut Butter Balls and Grandma Fern’s Brownies: When my great Grandmothers were alive, they each made a signature amazing desert and my Aunt has kept the tradition alive. Mimi’s PB balls are the best frozen and there is s special gold tin they have to come in. They are the perfect size and go so fast. You have to make sure to hide some so they don’t run out! Grandma Fern’s brownies are probably my favorite desert ever and I look forward to these all year. Paleo be damned, these are worth a few days at the gym.
Traveling: Christmas has always been huge in my family, much like many people. I have so much family that it had to be precisely scheduled when I was younger. My older brother and I celebrated Christmas Eve morning with my two Dads, then headed over to my Mom to open gifts with her and my stepdad and then we headed over to my Italian grandparents to celebrate with cousins, aunts, uncles, and more. We would go home around 11 or 12, sleep for a few hours and then drive to the airport, get on an early morning flight to Kansas City, MO for my paternal grandparents, aunt, and other family. We did this until one day in my mid 20’s I had enough of the missing or delayed flights and being stuck in airports and now we go to Missouri the weekend before Christmas.  Plus without going to Kansas City, I would miss out on the one meal a year my Grandma cooks, a delicious roast with mushrooms and bacon, patrician potatoes, Rhodes rolls, green beans and corn casserole.  
Pop Christmas Albums/All Christmas music: Mariah. N’Sync. BSB, 98 degrees, Hanson. I love em all and need my fix of their holiday albums. Taylor Swift and Josh Groban too. Plus 93.9FM in Chicago plays all holiday music from November ’til Christmas and I don’t change my radio. You can’t leave out Bing, Frank, and all the originals. Favorite Christmas song? “Baby it’s cold outside”
Italian Christmas Eve: My Mom’s family is Catholic so we don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve and instead have pasta, homemade cheese pizza, and seafood. Food is a big part of our culture, the making, eating, the family recipes, the warmth it is to be in a kitchen. Some years we’ve had eel, calamari salad, mussels, and more. The stuffed artichokes my Aunt Laurie makes are out of this world and what’s being Italian without some wine?We eat my Aunt Diane’s special chocolate chip cookies. Our Christmas’s are loud, full of laughter, smiles, the most wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen, and of love. It’s cheesy but I’ve always been so proud to be Italian and of my heritage and of the strong people who came before me.
What are your favorite holiday traditions? What is your favorite holiday movie or song?
Check out Kristen’s post on balance and the traditions she and her husband keep!
Bella and Dante in their holiday wear
bbq, book club, family, grillin, joey waffles, mom

North Shore Grillin’

So I am pretty much obsessed with grilling. A perk of living in the suburbs (of which there are many IF you legit live a mile or two away from Chicago) is that we have a nice sized backyard and can really enjoy grilling. We didn’t have a grill so after a few Home Depot and Lowe’s trips…on the weekends…driving the Land Rover with Starbucks in hand…we purchased a new grill which fits us perfectly. First how #noshopo were those trips? At least we weren’t matching or wearing khakis or plaid or anything. But still.

So we picked a grill that was the right size for us, went with our vintage house aesthetics, and did NOT looks shiny and new and have to many lights and gadgets. We both have really simple needs and liked the same one and voila! A Char-Griller that has two cute smoke stacks, nothing flashy,and looks awesome in our backyard. Plus being my thrifty #noshopo self, i went to the Salvation Army and picked up some pretty much new grilling veggie baskets and definitely new cedar planks and some other cute things…and more books of course. New and old, got to mix it up.

So obviously I needed to use the grill right away and we cooked up a storm last Sunday night (the one before Mother’s Day). By we, I mean Joey. I’m the prep cook. We grilled: BBQ chicken breasts, Lime chicken thighs, Bison Burgers with garlic, Chicken and Steak shish kabobs, Steak filets, a mixed peppers and onion medley, grilled asparagus and my favorite: jalapenos stuffed with garlic/onion chorizo and wrapped in bacon. Those were so good we made them for Mother’s Day…HUGE hit. My boo is a damn good griller and the fish he made later in the week, hell yeah.


Oh and Mothers Day was awesome. Love my crazy Italian Family. My brother and sis-in-law (who live in St. Louis) came over to see our house for the first time on Saturday and it was great spending time with them. Dinner went great on Sunday because everyone loves Joey, which has never been said about any of my previous boyfriends. My step-dad and he even bonded over motorcycles and went outside to look at his Harley (Joey has a Suzuki).  We got to eat, relax, and just have a nice time. Low key in Lake Forest. My Mom’s house is simply stunning with a beautiful lawn, everything perfect but not in the uptight way. I love going over there and just having everything be familiar and comforting and Mom-like. As you can see, I get my personality from my Mom and also really needs to get a haircut, hello shaggy dog bangs. Seriously my Mom is so darn cute!

Book Club was last Friday night and all I can say isMy book club can drink more than your book club.  (Article - 5 Tips for a Successful Book Club)