Monday, December 11, 2017

Chicago Recap & My 2017 Christmas Card

Last Sunday, we headed to Chicago.  I have said it before, but it's my favorite city and I was super excited to go during the holiday season.  (To make it easier, at the very bottom of the post are my recommendations for Chicago.)

We got there later on Sunday, so we just check into our hotel and walked around a bit before grabbing something to eat at a restaurant close to our hotel. 

I made it to the hotel gym on Monday to start off the week right, although I do have to say it was the only day I actually made it there.  Breakfast was complimentary with our stay, so we ended up doing that each morning we were there, because it was super easy, free and really good!  One really cool thing about our hotel, was that it had two robots, that would bring up small items if need be.  We accidently got two shower gels and no lotion, and I hadn't packed any, so we texted down and a few minutes later, the robot, Cleo, was at our door, with the lotion.  It was the craziest thing!  My cousin told me about this restaurant, Au Cheval, and said that they may have the best burger he has ever eaten.  He said the wait is usually insane, so we made sure to get there early (10:45), and I have to say, had we gotten there much later, we would have had a bit of a wait.  The food was delicious, and I would highly recommend going there if you are a burger fan.  On our walk back, I saw a sign for the Little French Market, so we walked on over there.  It kind of was like a food court, with a few other odds and ends there.  It was neat to see all the different types of food, and also what stations people were lined up for.  I wanted to check out the Macy's tree and the store windows, so that was up next on the agenda.  Growing up, we would occasionally go to the city to see the store lights, so it was fun to do that again.  With all the walking, we worked up an appetite for a treat, so we headed to Firecakes for their ice cream donut sandwich.  It's heavenly!  It was nice to get back to the hotel to rest a bit, and then we headed to dinner.  My cousin said great things about Eataly, so we headed over there for dinner.  It was amazing.  If you are ever in a city that has one, you must go.

Tuesday morning we got breakfast at the hotel again, and then headed to the Museum of Science and Industry.  During the holidays they have trees decorated for each country.  It's always so neat to see.  My favorite was the Czech tree, which is fitting since that is what my mom's side of the family is!  We also had to go see the fairy castle, which has always been my favorite, and yesterday's main street.  The museum just never disappoints.  We wanted to go a little lighter for lunch, so we checked out a Mediterranean place, Ema.  Another great restaurant!  The temperature had dropped a ton on Tuesday and it was crazy windy, so we just headed back to the hotel and stayed in for awhile.  We had made plans to go see the zoo lights with my cousin, but it was pretty miserable, so we headed back to Eataly for dinner.  I know there are so many great places to eat in Chicago, but I seriously dreamed about the pasta I had there, I loved it so much.  After dinner we walked along the river and back to the hotel.  It's funny, because my cousin and I used to be terrible to each other when we were little, but now we are great friends.  


The weather was still kind of crappy on Wednesday, but we braved it for a little shopping.  First up was lunch at Portillo's, one of my favorite places.  It's a chain, but they have the best Chicago style hot dogs and chocolate shakes!  My go to order there.  Even though it was cold, we headed to the Chriskindlmarket, which was surprisingly busy!  It's a little German market that has lots of vendors - both food and goods.  I picked up some ornaments and a little nesting santa.  After resting at the hotel, it was back out to do some browsing on Michigan Avenue and warming up with a coffee.  


Our last day was Thursday, and it was spent just getting ready to go.  It flurried a bit when we left, which was so pretty to see!  We met my grandma and mom for lunch at Riverside Restaurant, a Bohemian place that is one of my grandma's favorites.  I went once before and it was just as good the second time.  Since we were passing by, we stopped by to see my dad at his shop.  The rest of the drive was uneventful, at least until St. Louis.  Because it was right around rush hour, the GPS had us going all these crazy ways to avoid traffic.  Definitely not the usual way home!  

We took Friday off, too, and it was nice to spend it relaxing at home.  We did make it out for a movie, The Disaster Artist, which was good.  Kind of odd, but still good.  I wasn't familiar with the story behind it, but it's based on this guy that makes a movie that is terrible, but has this crazy cult-like following.  They showed side by side of the actual movie and how they remade it, and it's amazing to see how it is almost exact, which was really neat.

It was nice to have a full week off work, although this coming week is going to be nuts!  Tis the season, I guess!

Now, onto my 2017 Christmas card!  I used Shutterfly this year, and was really happy with how they turned out!

Chicago Recommendations
Where to stay:
Hotel EMC2

Things to do:
Museum of Science & Industry
Macy's Christmas Tree / Store Windows

Eataly (the tagliatelle was out of this world!)
Au Cheval (get the cheeseburger!)
Portillo's (my order is always the hotdog with everything and a chocolate shake)
Ema (the hummus is amazing, and so is the halluomi cheese)

Linking up with Biana, Sarah and Victoria.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Favorites: Chicago, Planners, Crockpot Mondays & Link Up Reminder

Happy Friday!  For the first time in a long while, I am actually kind of sad that Friday is here.  I have been off all week and it has just been so lovely!  A full recap to come next week!

1.  Chicago.  I was in Chicago Sunday - Thursday and it seriously is my favorite city.  I just love it so much.  We ate a ton and had a great time walking around the city and enjoying some of the Christmas-y things the city has to offer!

2.  Eataly.  I am obsessed.  I honestly dreamed about the pasta we had there and we may have gone back two nights in a row for dinner (and seriously thought about going back for a third night).  It's that good.  Can one please be opened in St. Louis?

3.  The Essential Planner in the news!  I have mentioned The Essential Planner before, but in case you missed it, Kelsey from Kelsey Peacock started a new business this year, Peacock Paper & Gifts, where she sells The Essential Planner.  The goal was create a planner that really had all the essentials in it you would need, which I think she totally knocked it out of the park.  She was recently featured in her local magazine, which is so very exciting!  Definitely check out her article (link here), and if you haven't yet, check out her planners!  My personal favorite is the weekly navy dot - I cannot wait to start using it!         

4.  Crockpot Monday.  When I was meal planning a few weeks ago, I opted to make a crockpot meal on Monday.  And let me tell you - it was so nice to come home to have dinner pretty much done.  I feel like Mondays can be tough, because you are just coming off the weekend, and since you aren't used to working all day, sometimes you are just a bit more tired and the last thing you want to do is think too much about dinner.  But having something in the crockpot going when you get home is just kind of like an ahhhhh, if that makes sense.  So I've decided I am going to make Mondays, 'crockpot Mondays'.  And maybe it won't necessarily be a crockpot meal, but something that all I have to do is pop in the oven, or assemble, like making a lasagna on Sunday to bake on Monday - something like that.  Just a way to make the start of the work week a little easier!

5.  Girl Chat link up!  This coming Thursday (12/14) is the last Girl Chat link up of the year.  We will be sharing the greatest gift we have ever received and would love for you to join us!  I have to admit, this one is a bit tough for me and I have to do some serious thinking between now and Thursday!  

Linking up with AndreaErikaApril, and Katie. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 2017 Goals & Gift Guide Round Up

This month's goals looks a bit different from normal.  But before I get to that, let's see how I did in November.

November Goals:

1.  Christmas cards.  Done!  I really am happy with the ones I chose this year and will be sharing them next week!

2.  Christmas shopping.  Almost done!  I still need to purchase three more presents, and there are a few things that need to be wrapped.  All in all, I would say I was pretty successful in getting things done early this year!

3.  Cube clean up.  Nope.  This did not happen at all.

4.  Be thankful.  I did really well with this at the beginning of the month, but about 10 days in I kept forgetting to write things down each day.  This is why I would love a gratitude journal, because I really think having a specific book to record these things in would be helpful and keep me on track.  

Now for December...

December Goals:

1.  Make a master to do list.  Only one goal for this month, but it's a big one.  I would like to make a big master to do list of all the things I want to accomplish - whether it be small projects around my apartment, specific things for the blog...I want to make a list of that in one place.  I have really been wanting to clean out and organize every single thing lately, and I think having an overall list will help me get my thoughts organized and actually knock things off my list.  And while I mentioned I have been wanting to get things done right now, it just isn't going to happen with the holidays, so having this list complete this month will be a great kick start to the organizing and cleaning that always comes in the new year.

Moving on to my gift guide round up!  The Most Wonderful Time of the Year link up is all about gift guides.  I have already shared mine, so check out the links below to see the full guides.  And I am including my wish list, because I feel like those always give great ideas, too!  



As a side note - does anyone else wish we shared gift guides / wish lists in October?  I am one that fully enjoys fall and thinks that the Christmas season comes earlier and earlier each year, but every gift guide / wish list I see, my gift giving ideas change and my own list grows and grows.  The problem with this, is I like to buy early and we always share our lists with family at Thanksgiving.  So I am often done with gifts before seeing some of these great posts.  I guess that helps with shopping for next year and for birthdays, but it has just been something I have been thinking about this year.  Anyone else?   

Linking up with Sarah, Victoria, Erica and Kristen.  

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Day in the Life 12.2.17

I totally failed on this Day in the Life post.  I didn't realize it was the first week, so the only day I could track was this past Saturday...and I barely did that at all!  So instead of a full day, I will be sharing a morning in the life.  

I was up early on Saturday because I knew I wanted to get a work out in before I headed to church for the cookie walk.  On the weekends especially, if I do not work out first thing, then odds are, it's not going to happen.  I headed to the gym and did a quick work out on the elliptical.  

My Christmas tree is pretty much one of the first things I see when I walk in the apartment and it always makes me smile!

Coffee on the weekend is one of my treats.  I drink tea during the week, and then Friday - Sunday, I treat myself to coffee.  I am still drinking my PSL K-cups that I picked up on sale at Target awhile ago.  However, I did grab a box of the peppermint mocha K-cups, so I sometimes switch it up with that!  I almost always enjoy a cup while watching one of the many episodes of The Pioneer Woman I have on my DVR.  Even if I am in a rush, I can see a recipe or two on the show with how it is segmented.

I got to church just a little before 8:00 to help finish setting up for the cookie walk.  This was my first cookie walk experience with my church, and I just thought it was so neat.  How it works - people from the church bake lots and lots of cookies.  The women's group does this throughout the year and decorates loads of sugar cookies.  They seriously look amazing.  Tables are set up around the perimeter of the room, and cookies are set out in groups.  When people arrive, they are given a number, which is their place in line.  The cookie walk started at 9:00 and the first people there to get a number came at 7:30!  They meant business!  When the walk opens at 9:00, each person is given a glove (to pick up the cookies with), and bakery-type boxes to load up their cookies.  The cookies are sold by pound, so when they come to check out, the boxes are weighed, and then the amount is calculated off weight.  It was really nice how the check out worked.  I did the weighing, wrote it on a slip, and then passed it along to my partner, where she took the many and calculated the total if they had more than one box.  There were ladies stationed all around the room, refilling cookies are they were picked up.  I was seriously amazed at the turnout.  Things were pretty much sold out in 40 minutes!  Unforunately, I didn't get to sample any of those gorgeous sugar cookies, but next year, I may have someone come and get in line so that they can grab a few for me.  

And there is where I finished documenting my day.  Whoops!  

You can see other Day in the Life posts below.

Linking up with Victoria, Sarah, Jenn and Jessi.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Entertaining Tips

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Day Two of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year link up.  While I don't necessarily entertain myself (read: my apartment is super small!), I have a few tips in the back of my mind for when the time comes that I can entertain again!

1.  Make ahead.  If there is anything you can prepare ahead of time, do it.  From making whole meals to cutting and chopping what you can to then assemble before company arrives - whatever you can do helps!  One time I was having girls over for dinner, and I got stuck in terrible traffic going home.  But, because I thought ahead, I had already prepared the lasagna I was going to serve the night before, and just had to pop it in the oven.  So while I was late, it didn't really matter!  Same with book club - if I can make what I am bringing ahead of time, I do, or at least what I can.  I made Shay's Pumpkin Spice Latte bundt cake the night before, then right before I left, I made the icing.  Things just go a little smoother if you aren't scrambling at the last minute if something comes up, and it allows you to focus more on having fun, than getting things ready!

2.  Don't do it all yourself.  Often times people will offer to help, and it's always nice to take them up on it!  Whether it be bringing wine, or dessert, it's one less thing you have to worry about.

3.  Set out snacks.  Growing up, whenever we had family over, we almost always had some type of snacks set out to nibble on before the meal.  Usually it was trail mix, little chocolate bars, and nuts.  Super simple and easy!

4.  Not everything needs to be homemade.  I love to cook and bake, but sometimes purchasing something pre-made, can really help you out.  I think it is Barefoot Contessa who has this rule and she is one of the queens of entertaining!

5.  Keep things accessible for your guests.  If it's a casual get together, it's always great to have everything out in one place.  Plates, cups, utensils, napkins - that way your guests can help themselves and not feeling like they are bothering you, asking for something.  Same with coasters, bottle openers and cork screws.  

Linking up with Victoria, Sarah, Lindsay and Whitney.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Wish List

Today is the first day of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year link up with Sarah and Victoria.  I am excited to be their guest host for the day, sharing my wish list!

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that any clicks/purchases may result in a few cents of commission at no additional cost to you.

1.  Fossil Hybrid Smartwatch Q Accomplice.  While I like the idea of a smartwatch, I often don't like the look.  However, this one looks like a regular watch and has the neat capabilities of a smartwatch.  The one thing I am most excited about is the built in fitness tracker.  

2.  Louis Vuitton Wallet.  This is definitely a wish list item, with a heavy emphasis on the wish part!  For my 30th birthday this year, I purchased a LV Neverfull (with the help of gifts from others!).  I would love a wallet to add to my collection.

3.  The Bible.  Right now, I have two Bibles - one from when I was confirmed way back in 8th grade, and the other is the One-Year Bible I picked up last year.  While the ones I have are both great, I would love a nice Bible that includes explanations of the scripture.  If anyone has recommendations of one like this, please let me know!

4.  Kendra Scott Bar Necklace.  I like how this necklace has a little bit of a sparkle, but is still simple.  

5.  Gratitude Journal.  I love the idea of having something to write things I am grateful for in daily.  I realize I could do this in a plain notebook, but I think having something special to write in would help me to stick with it.

6.  Cookbooks.  You all knew cookbooks had to be on my list!  As I have mentioned so many times before, I LOVE cookbooks.  My collection just keeps growing and growing.  Right now, I have my eyes set on The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!, Simmers, and The Skinnytaste Cookbook.  Any others you would suggest?

7.  Leopard Heels.  I have been wanting a pair for years now!  I just think they would add such a fun pop to any outfit.  

8.  Clay Face Mask.  Chelsea from The Girl Who Loved to Write shared this in one of her recent posts.  I love a good face mask, and she raved about this one.  Anything that helps to clean out my pores is a win!

9.  Sigma Foundation Brush.  Currently I use little sponge wedges to apply my foundation.  I have heard brushes are so much better though, and that this is one of the best! 

10.  White Essie Polish.  It's been a long while since I have worn white (or white-ish) polish, but I have been seeing it in different places and absolutely love the look.

Quite a random mix, but all things I am wishing for!

Big thanks to the girls for letting me host with them!  It's always fun come up with wish list items, especially around the holidays!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday Favorites

Most of the times I start these posts at the beginning of the week.  Whether it be a list in blogger, or just on a notepad, I jot things down to remind myself.  For some reason this week, I remember coming up with some ideas for this post, thinking I needed to write them down, only to tell myself that it was fine, I will definitely remember them.  Anyone else have those internal conversations with yourself?  Well, surprise, surprise, come Thursday I didn't remember any of the ideas I had - go figure.  So, today I only have two favorites.  If only I had written them down...

1.  Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Bars.  I am participating in my church's cookie walk this weekend as a baker.  I was debating what cookies to make, and my mom suggested doing chocolate chip bars, because they make a lot and they are just so dang easy - and good!  I decided to listen to her suggestion and make them.  If you are looking for a fail-proof cookie recipe, that is perfect for any event (or to have at home), just take a look on the back of the Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip package.  (Side note - we have always made them without the nuts.)  My mom has been making these for YEARS and they are a family favorite...and pretty much anyone else that has one, too! 

2.  Wish Lists!  I have mentioned this a few times already, but on Monday, I will be sharing my wish list with you all as part of Sarah and Victoria's holiday link up.  I am super excited to be their guest host, and would love it if you would join in sharing with us.

December 4th- Christmas Wish List with A Little Bit of Emily
December 5th- Holiday Entertaining Tips with Classic Catherine
December 6th- Christmas Day in the Life with Nicole Cole
December 7th- Christmas Gift Guide with Whimsical September
December 11th- Christmas Cards with Taz and Belly
December 12th- Holiday Home Tour with Michaela Noelle Designs
December 13th- Favorite Holiday Party Recipe with The Queen in Between
December 14th- Favorite Meaningful Holiday Memories

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Linking up with AndreaErikaApril, and Katie.