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A Festive Playlist To Get You In the Holiday Spirit!

Now that it is officially socially acceptable to begin playing Christmas songs (unless you're one of the Grinch types who won't allow that until December 1st, in which case I say humbug!)

I may have broken the decorations out a little bit earlier than usual this year, but by far the best part of the day for me was turning on this festive playlist for the first time and belting out all the classics...thankfully only Dalton was subjected to my singing voice, though...


In case you're ready to get into the Christmas spirit and let Mariah Carey ring through the halls of your house, too - I'm sharing my FAVORITE Christmas playlist on Spotify! You can open it in the app by clicking here right away, or you can play it directly from this post below. Be sure to follow me on Spotify for other awesome playlists, list this one and this one, too!

Traditions + A Holiday Season Bucket List

For those of you who like to wait until post-Thanksgiving to start getting into the holiday spirit...welcome! I've been in full Christmas mode for over a week! 

I've honestly always loved Christmas more than just about anyone I know, with the exception of my mother who probably passed her obsession on to me at a very early age. I still do my best to honor some of our most special traditions, but over the years have started a few new ones of my own to add to the mix, too! 

The first one of these newer traditions is on our agenda this week and I've been counting down the days! Here's a little background for you on my new (possibly favorite) holiday tradition here in Chicago:

Last year, we were walking the city after Thanksgiving trying to work off some of those calories (and checking out a sale or two) when we stumbled upon the Christkindl Market (German Christmas Market) downtown! Talk about a magical find...it was like happening upon the North Pole nestled between all of the tall buildings and lights!

PS - my understanding is that a lot of cities and suburbs have these, so it's worth looking up if you don't live in Chicago!


Naturally, like a little kid in a candy store, I hustled across the street into the square to take in all of the sights, shops, stalls, and smells. The fire-roasted chestnuts, spiced wines, apple ciders, and other treats were overwhelming, and there were so many cute Christmas decorations trees and lights. I seriously think I could have spent an entire day there - and this was during a particularly chilly Chicago winter, day!

We found a really special ornament store with a ton of different options, and decided that it might be cool to make this an annual trip where we get a new ornament each year for our tree. That way, someday, we will have a full tree full of ornaments with special meanings and memories for us! 

We put up our tree the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and our ornament from last year was first to be hung. Be on the lookout on Instagram stories later this week for this year's find! I love our special little tradition already, and it's a perfect addition to so many that I've kept from my childhood. What are some of your favorite or most special holiday traditions?! I'd love to hear them and get more ideas!

I've also made a holiday bucket list to help get you in the spirit now that December is almost upon us! 


PS - Here's a little video on the Christkindl Market here in Chicago...how adorable is this?!



Gift Guide: My Essentials This Year!

As I've gotten older, coming up with a "Christmas List" for my family and friends has definitely become a whole different ball game (and a far cry from circling every single thing in a toy catalogue...man, those were the days, right?!)

That said, I always feel a little bit silly drafting up some massive super specific list. I seriously used to type up pages long lists when I was in Middle School - I think we can all remember the age where it felt like if you didn't have every single thing you were going to be totally left out. 

Now that I'm out of college, I can of course afford to get myself basic essentials, things I need, and the occasional splurge on a wish list item or two. You know you're becoming an adult when your Christmas list looks like apartment decorations, cooking or cleaning supplies, and you get way more excited to give a gift rather than receive!

Of course, I'm still human, so naturally I always managed to come up with a couple of wish-list-worthy items that I would love to have but would probably never purchase for myself as they aren't "essential". 

Here's what I came up with for my top essential wish list items this year...maybe it will spark a gift idea (or a wish list idea of your own)!







A New Fragrance | I love perfume, but have always thought of it as "something special". I am completely serious, I have some perfume bottles that I've used so slowly that they've lasted me 4+ years! Some of them are exclusively for special occasions. That said, it has been a very long time since I've gotten a new scent and it's always a great go-to. I've had my eye on this one.

Dyson Hair Dryer | This would be a major splurge item. Like, very major. That said, in case you missed it, I tried out this hair dryer when I was home for a wedding and oh. my. It was truly incredible! I normally let my hair air dry for about 30-45 minutes before blow drying it, and it still takes me about 15 minutes. Using this it took me less than 4 minutes, without any air drying time. 
Let that sink in for a minute! My hair was also smoother, and the heat wasn't as intense, so it was very easy to style. Talk about a worthy splurge item!

Cast Iron Skillet | My wish list has a lot of simple cooking and baking supplies on it this year, but my biggest need is a new cast iron skillet! I've been getting more into cooking with every passing week, and I'm definitely ready to add some new tools to take it to the next level. You can find my absolute favorite tried-and-tested recipes right here!

The CUTEST Bag | You'll be seeing a lot of this beauty in my upcoming outfit posts and Instagrams...I am obsessed! It is also 75% OFF RIGHT NOW! Seriously...a gorgeous leather monogram bag for only $30?! Get on it, ASAP!

Monogram Cosmetic Case | It's hard to beat really classic and useful travel accessories. My travel schedule has slowed way down compared to last year when we were still doing long distance, but I acquired some really incredible travel tools that will last for many more years, trips and adventures to come!

The Perfect Stocking Stuffer | I own an Essie nail polish collection that probably puts some nail salons to shame...but I justify it because I never ever get real manicures and pedicures (even gel polish chips after 48 hours for me!) I love asking for new nail polish colors as a great little stocking stuffer that you'll get a ton of use out of! Loving this color and this one a lot lately.

Sonos Speaker + Alexa | My parents have sworn by their Sonos speaker system for many years now...and it's pretty incredible! You can continue to add more speakers (depending on how big your space is) and the bluetooth and sound quality is amazing. I love the white version - and the newest one comes with a built-in Amazon Alexa to maximize its usefulness!

Monogram Cheese Board | I love to entertain and host...and you can't beat having a really great and simple cheese board for appetizers and snacks whenever you have guests. Pro tip - they work great for solo wine nights while binge-watching Netflix, too!

Coffee Table Books | These are so perfect for decorating (and fun to flip through!) I have a never ending list of coffee table books that I'd love to have, but this one is the most coveted. I've compiled some short lists of some other favorites recently, too!

The Perfect Classic Coat | You really can't beat a classic coat that will last you for years to come...especially if you're in Chicago or somewhere equally as chilly! I've had my eye on this one for the last few winters, and I always get so envious when I see all of the colors it comes in around the city. I think I've got my eye on grey because it feels practical...but the lavender is so pretty, too! Which would you choose?!

3 Easy & Delicious Thanksgiving Recipes to Contribute!

Before you get intimidated by this post...hear me out! Whether you are the type of person who could burn cereal, or someone who is giving Martha Stewart a run for their money, these recipes are simple and delicious and are guaranteed to be a hit at your Thanksgiving holiday. 

It will be many, many, many years before I'm ever hosting a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner myself, but I love trying out new recipes and cooking, and I think it's an incredibly thoughtful way to contribute to an often stressful holiday. 

Your host will definitely appreciate the helping hand!



Zucchini Muffins | While this isn't something that necessarily comes to mind for the actual Thanksgiving dinner, I think this is the best one on the list. Most often, yours hosts will already have their dishes mapped out, but playing host for a holiday is a massive undertaking, especially if you're also hosting relatives in town! The last thing any (sane) human would want to do after serving up a massive Thanksgiving dinner is to whip up a big breakfast the next day. These make a great and easy no-mess option for a host to lay out and have everyone help themselves and give a well-deserved break from more cooking! (Not to mention, zucchini muffins healthy and so yummy). 

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • muffin tray/cups
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and stir. Add the zucchini, then the melted butter. 
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, add together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Stir this mixture into the zucchini mixture bowl to combine them.
  4. Coat each muffin cup with non-stick spray. 
  5. Spoon the mixture into each cup completely and equally.
  6. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes (until golden brown). Test with toothpick to ensure the center of the muffins are done. 
  7. Let cool for 5 minutes.
*You can find this original recipe here.


Pecan Pie | This is one I've had for many years with my family, and it has finally been handed down to me. I'm really excited to give it a shot this year (and feel grateful that if I mess it up, we will have a backup!) Pecan pie is such a classic Thanksgiving dish, and one that thankfully people tend to want seconds of. 

Ingredients: 
  • 1 box Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust Unbaked (9" is standard)
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Karo (corn syrup - I recommend the light kind!)
  • 2 Tbsp. Margarine (or butter)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans (de-shelled, whole pecans)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Spray pie pan and place crust in pan (direction video for this below!) Place back in fridge until needed. 
  3. Add all ingredients (eggs, sugar, Karo, butter, vanilla) in bowl and mix. Add pecans afterwards to the mixture to prevent clumping.
  4. Stir ingredients and spread evenly in pie crust. 
  5. Bake for 50-55 minutes and let cool.
*If you need instructions for how to lay a pie crust into a pie pan, I recommend checking out this brief video for reference!

Pumpkin Pie Martini | Dessert cocktails are normally not my forte, and I usually opt for wine or a vodka tonic at all times...mainly because I like to avoid anything too sweet. This cocktail will not disappoint, even if you're like me in that sense! You also don't need any bartending skills whatsoever, but it will definitely look like you're a pro! I got this from a family friend a few years back, and she ended up publishing it in her cookbook!

Ingredients:
  • 1/1 oz. Cream Liqueur (like Bailey's Irish Cream)
  • 2 oz. vanilla vodka
  • 1/2 oz. pumpkin liqueur
  • 1 tsp. whipped cream (real homemade is best)
  • For garnish: cinnamon stick, ground nutmeg, and a dollop of whipped cream
Directions:
  1. Pour the cream liqueur and vodka into a shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake well. 
  3. Add the pumpkin liqueur.
  4. Shake again. 
  5. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass (preferably a martini glass)
  6. Top with a teaspoon of whipped cream. 
  7. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a sprinkling of ground nutmeg.
Try any one of these, and no matter what your cooking skill is, you will be the best guest a host could ever ask for (plus, duh...more food!)

Is anyone else feeling brave enough to try out a new recipe or two?!