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MAKE iT | S'mores Hot Cocoa

Thursday, December 31

Happy New Year's Eve everyone!!
It's crazy to me that it's the very last day of 2015 and that we are about to step into a brand new year together!!

As part of our NYE celebrations tonight, my family and I will be sipping on some S'mores Hot Chocolate from our "Cabin in the Woods" themed hot cocoa bar I created this year. I've perfected the recipe, (or rather the strategic assembling process), and wanted to share it here just in case you'd like to try this tonight or at some point during the cold winter months ahead. It's delicious + fun and the presentation can't be beat!

for one 8oz. cup of Hot Cocoa

2 - TBSP of Hot Cocoa Mix - store-bought in bulk or packets or homemade - this recipe
6 oz. steaming hot water (or milk)
Mini Marshmallows
Whipped Cream
1 TBSP of crushed graham crackers
1 small rectangle of a Hershey Bar
Kitchen Torch  

Assembly - this is very strategic
Put hot cocoa mix in mug and add steaming hot water.
Top with a handful of marshmallows making sure to cover the all of the hot cocoa. (this keeps the hot cocoa warm and provides a platform for the whipped cream to float on so that it doesn't melt so quickly).
Add a generous amount of whipped cream - coming up over the top of your mug.
Top with graham cracker crumbs. (these provide a needed barrier between the whipped cream + the marshmallows during the toasting process).
Place 7-8 marshmallows on top - you will have to gently push them into the graham crackers.
Working quickly, use a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallows on top.
Add the hershey bar and serve with a spoon.
It smells like heaven and tastes delicious!

I really hope you'll try it!!
And of course, feel free to tweak it to your exact liking - there are no real rules! Except to have fun!

Happy New Year to all of you!!
Be safe as you celebrate with friends and family tonight!
And thank you so much for you love and support through the years!!
Meet you back here next year! *wink*

I've been making mugs of this S'mores Hot Chocolate for the past several nights and they are the bomb dot com. Looking forward to sharing more of the NEW Cabin in the Woods Hot Cocoa bar with you but in the meantime, here is a peek at the Hot Chocolate Mugs I used and the cute lantern I included as part of the set up! **UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE LINK TO THE CABIN IN THE WOODS HOT COCOA BAR.

GIFT IDEAS | Stocking Stuffers

Tuesday, December 22

We are days away from Christmas and if you are like me...
you are trying to find time to wrap all of the presents and frantically wrapping up any loose ends between today and tomorrow.

I typically leave stocking stuffers until the last minute, however, this year, I was on top of things!
I started hoarding finding things at the very beginning of November so I am all up on my stocking stuffer game this year!! *wink*

I do have to admit, I personally do not have a stocking for myself.
I only have three stockings for each of the girls.
And honestly, I don't even like the stockings I have - they are super old and I have outgrown them - like 10 years ago. I keep saying I'm going to buy new ones and it never happens. (next year). *wink*

BUT...I was dreaming of stocking stuffers for myself the other day and found these pretty little things from Anthropologie.

I thought you might like some of these too and perhaps you'll be inspired to add them to your own last-minute stocking stuffer wish list too!

Come to think of it, maybe I should add "new stocking" to my stocking stuffer wishlist?
What do you all have on your wish lists? I'd love to know.

And do any of you have any recommendations or suggestions for a great place to find some pretty, creamy white stockings? Heirloom quality?

I did almost 100% of my shopping online this year.
Lights are on the house - and we added two new lighted wreaths this season! They look so pretty!
Christmas tree is up and almost completely decorated. (need to add the angel and a few more bows)!
I've wrapped six presents. Yay me!!
Still waiting on Office Depot to finish printing my NEW Hot Cocoa Bar sign I ordered 5 days ago. *grrrr*
I've baked lots of cookies, (including these oreo reindeer cookies) and admit I've eaten way too many of them all. Which is why I'm totally doing THIS! and THIS! 
Still need to bottle up the homemade vanilla extract I've been letting sit all year long in preparation for gifting.
And...drumroll please....
I ordered my New Year's Cards TODAY...because it's too late for Christmas.
(There's a camera/photo shoot story that plays into the late cards - I'll have to post about it!) *wink*

STYLING | Vintage Christmas Brunch

Thursday, December 17

Contemplating hosting a Christmas Brunch this year? Maybe this one I styled with some vintage flair for the December issue of Romantic Homes Magazine will inspire you?

Just as I said in the article, "Hosting a Christmas brunch can be as simple as gathering a few friends together for coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls. Or it can also involve planning a special breakfast for your family on Christmas morning. Or choosing a day prior to Christmas to invite family or friends over to feast on the spirit of the upcoming holiday season."

Gather up some of your holiday decor from around the house and pull out some of your pretty cake plates and silver serving trays.

I loved using these vintage salt shakers created by my sweet friend Tammy from Cloth and Patina to label the food items. These were originally designed to be used as place card holders for place settings or even to display photos in your home or office. Isn't this gorgeous?

A combination of sweet and savory food items are the perfect combination to satisfy every appetite.
You can create everything from scratch if you are up for the task, do a combination of both homemade + store-bought items or keep it super simple and pick up everything from your local bakery.

I included Quiche Lorraine as part of my brunch food selections using my favorite Quiche Lorraine recipe!  It's absolutely delicious + easy to make.

I also made mini Orange-Cranberry Christmas bread loaves for the place settings and then baked a medium sized loaf as part of the brunch food table.

The beautiful candlesticks, metal envelope place settings and pretty napkin rings are also available from Cloth and Patina!

The large tin rustic bucket was something I purchased from Decor Steals some time back and I just created a beautiful floral centerpiece using an assortment of faux flowers from Hobby Lobby.

TIP: Whenever I create and invest in floral pieces to make arrangements, I always keep the majority of them very neutral, selecting mainly creamy whites and browns or even incorporating some brown twig bundles. This allows me to add bright red berries for Christmas and then pull them out to instead add pops of color for Spring and Summer. The arrangement you see above was part of my Thanksgiving decorations and for this Christmas Brunch, I just added red berries for a festive touch.

Here's another pretty vintage salt shaker food label holder and a close-up shot of the inside of this delicous orange-cranberry bread.

Do you see that gorgeous orange juice decanter?
That was also another treasure from Cloth and Patina!!

I hope you're inspired to do something like this for either family or friends this holiday season.
Below you'll find the links to a couple of recipes as well as resources to some of the beautiful serving and decor items shown in the post.

Thank you Tammy for boxing up some of your pretty things to send to me just in time for the photo shoot! It was exactly the inspiration I needed to help pull everything together! Mwah!!

If you haven't checked out the Cloth and Patina shop you are missing out. Tammy's beautiful designs are handmade with a tremendous amount of love and care. She is a very sweet person with a big heart and it shows through in everything she creates!!


Bagels + Cream Cheese - store-bought
Mini Muffins - store-bought
Cranberry-Orange Christmas Bread - homemade
Quiche Lorraine - homemade

Orange Juice
Citrus-infused water

Stoneware Pie Plates - holding quiche + bagels
Vintage Shutters for backdrop • The Cozy Nest
Rustic Hanging Metal Door Bucket for floral centerpiece • Decor Steals
Florals • Hobby Lobby
Orange Juice Decanter • Cloth and Patina
Creamy White Metal Cake Stands • Hobby Lobby
Brown Barley Twist cake stand • Southern Living AT HOME
Lighted Christmas tree • Hobby Lobby
Lace used on centerpiece, cake stand + on around mini bread loaves • JoAnn's
Vintage Salt Shakers • Cloth and Patina
Vintage Silver Candlesticks (set of 3) • Cloth and Patina
Glass Candy Dish - holding tub of Cream Cheese • InSpired 365
Large Silver Candlesticks - holding fruit tray on table + carafe of water on food table • InSpired 365
Silver Tray (holding medium cranberry-orange bread loaf) • InSpired 365

Ella was so confused when I created this Christmas Brunch table in the middle of our dining room - BACK IN AUGUST. And now she's asking if we are doing ANOTHER Christmas brunch - since it's actually Christmas now. *wink*

Also, I had to use dried cranberries for the bread recipe instead of the fresh ones the recipe calls for...because cranberries aren't in season during the Summer. (oh the struggles of a party stylist)! *giggling*

Oh! And all of the baking I did was done in a toaster oven I borrowed from a neighbor - because that's during the time we were still on the hunt for a new range after our house was struck by lightning! You would never know from the photos though...would you?! *wink*

Oh and hey!! Happy Birthday to my little brother today!!

RECiPE | Quiche Lorraine

Monday, December 14

Any other quiche lover's out there?
I'm all about the brilliant mix of carbs and protein in these delightful dishes and today I'm sharing one of my all-time favorites with you...Quiche Lorraine.

If you want something a little extra special for your Christmas Brunch - or any brunch for that matter, this is the recipe you want to make!! It might sound fancy and use fancy cheese, but it's actually really simple to make! *wink*

adapted from the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
serves 6-8

Pastry for 9 inch pie (refrigerated store-bought or homemade)
8 slices bacon, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
6 large eggs, beaten
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg (fresh ground is what I use because I have this pretty Nutmeg Mill)
Dash of ground red pepper
Dash of ground white pepper
Ground nutmeg
Garnish: a pretty sprig of chives

Note: You can substitute Swiss for Gruyère - but I feel the Gruyère makes it more special!

• Place pastry into 9-inch pie plate, forming a piecrust. Trim excess pastry from around the edges and prick the bottom and sides of piecrust with a fork. Bake at 400º for 3 minutes. Remove from oven, gently prick once again with fork and bake 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

• Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until browned; add chopped green onions and cook 1 more minute. Remove bacon and green onions onto a plate covered in a few paper towels. Use additional paper towels to help soak up the excess grease. Sprinkle in the bottom of prepared crust. Top with 1 cup of cheese and set aside.

• Combine eggs and next 5 ingredients. Stir well. Pour egg mixture into prepared crust. Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese. Sprinkle lightly with additional nutmeg.

• Bake at 350º for 35 minutes or until set. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chives if desired.

I hope you'll try it!! It's delicious!!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post where I'm revealing all of the details from the Christmas Brunch I styled for the December issue of Romantic Homes Magazine - which includes this Quiche Lorraine!!

Did you notice my natural stoneware pie plate? It's my absolute FAVORITE PIE PLATE!!
I've got two of these deep dish pie plates and I use them all of the time. I love how pies, quiches and even chicken pies look pretty and bake beautifully in these!! They have a beautiful heirloom quality to them.

Best part? Dishwasher, oven, microwave and freezer safe! They clean up super easy too! Oh yes!!
Mine is all natural without a finish but if you prefer, there is a really pretty White Natural Stone Deep Pie Dish as well.

Scrambling to get my Hot Chocolate Bar up this year!
Ella asked me if I could make it happen today so she can come home from gymnastics tonight and have a cup before bedtime! (pressure is on now). *wink*

HOME | Entryway Photo Art

Thursday, December 10

Yes, it's true...I might not have very many Christmas decorations up around my house just yet...
despite being about two weeks away from the big day!!

I did, however, put something else up this week that is near + dear to my heart and that will add a very special touch to our home this holiday season and far beyond that...

Three new 24x36 photo canvases from Shutterfly of all three of my girls

I've been wanting to do something like this for some time now and finally made it happen using Shutterfly's "Design-A-Wall" feature. It really made the entire process super easy - from selecting the right photos, creating the perfect layout as well as physically hanging the art on the wall.

Since I've been dreaming of oversized artwork of my girls for some time now, I knew I wanted to go BIG and fill as much of the wall in our entry as I possibly could. I was looking for a high-impact result and I got it!! I think color photos would've been really pretty too but I chose to go with black and white because of the timelessness they evoke. 

Want to know how easy it was to make this happen?

Even though I toyed with the idea of using photos of the girls when they were each two years old,  (how fun would that be?), I ultimately decided it was more important to make sure I selected photos of each girl that had similar backgrounds and lighting since they would be grouped together. I narrowed it down to a few of each girl from our Christmas Photo Shoot last year.

Now all I had to do was decide which art material I wanted the photos to be printed on.
There are six different options to choose from on the Shutterfly website - see below. I admit choosing the art material was a little tough because the wood and metal artwork sounds WAY cool but I ended up selecting a more tradional option - canvas. It's easier on the wallet and they are light as a feather which makes hanging them even easier.

Shutterfly offers quite an array of pre-arranged photo layout templates to pick from. I measured the wall in the foyer where my artwork would be hanging to narrow down the selections based on what would work best in my space. I went with the 78x36 Layout - see below.

Next, I uploaded the photos I'd previously decided on to the Shutterfly website and inserted them into the template.

In order to give a more cohesive flow to the photos I selected, I had to crop Ema and Clara's photos so their faces filled up more of the frame/canvas. Notice how it looks as if Clara is tall and Ema is short in the original upload and layout? (see above).

This was super easy to fix by just clicking on the photo I wanted to crop which then took me to an editing window where I created a box around the area I wanted to zoom in on. (There are other editing tools to choose from as well like adding a filter, removing red eye and even rotating the image if you need to).

Isn't that a lot more balanced now after having cropped both Clara and Ema's pictures? (see below)

With my photos uploaded and cropped, I just pushed "Add to Cart" and placed my order.

Notice the little exclamation marks in the upper left of each photo? That's a warning from Shutterfly that the resolution on my images may not be high enough for a good quality print. I personally ignored the warning and went ahead and placed the order - hoping it would all turn out all right - and they still printed beautifully! (tossing the confetti)

When the order shipped, there was a handy dandy paper template that was sent separately which also included "Easy Hang Guide"instructions and a small level in a tiny envelope. (see all three below)

I unrolled the paper template right on the dirty floor of the foyer and just followed the written instructions.

Keeping It Real Disclaimer
I was too lazy and too focused on getting these canvases hung to bother moving the pot of wilted mums belonging to Clara or our dog's tennis ball from the photo. 
And all of that junk on the right is spilling out of my studio. 
This is real life folks.

First thing the directions mention is to attach the self-adhesive level to the paper template in the "PLACE LEVEL HERE" spot at the top. So I did just that.

With the level on my paper template, I grabbed some painter's tape and a ladder and managed to hang it up on the wall all by myself since no one else was home. (I recommend enlisting the help of someone if you are hanging something this wide because it would be a lot easier to manage). *wink*

At first I used some cheap painter's tape to attach it to the wall. I somehow managed to get it straight after a few adjustments, a lot of up and down on the ladder and a little huffing + puffing wishing one of the girls was home to help. I even considered putting off the project until someone got home but I was too stubborn + excited and wanted to get it hung up to surprise everyone. Besides all of that, I really wanted to prove to all of you that you could really do this project all on your own.

I stepped off the ladder and because I used the cheap painter's tape...this started to happen. (see below) Oh heck no! After all of that "up and down and back and forth" business, eyeing the level and getting it just right, I found myself repeating the process all over again. So frustrating.

So then I reached for a wider (and higher quality) painter's tape I had here at the house and went to town by applying double strips of tape to all of four corners of the paper template. This was a much better call and I should've just done that in the first place.

Once the paper template seemed nice and level and was positioned on the wall exactly where I felt the photos should be, (and was hanging securely this time),  I referenced the key at the bottom of the template to determine where to place the holes to mark the wall for hanging.

Since I have canvas prints, spot "A" was where I needed to push a nail through the paper. There were 3 "spot A's" because I was hanging three different canvases.

After I made 3 holes in the wall, I took down the paper template I had just worked so hard to hang and proceeded to hang up each canvas using one nail. (the canvases come with a mounting bracket you hammer into the back of the canvas frame - easy). And Voila!! They are up!!

They look awesome and it really was easy - and they were level!!  So important!!
I pushed the antique church pew back into it's position and just added a couple of items to make it seem a little more decorated - just so I could get a final photo to post here. *wink*

And if you are thinking the canvases seem pretty high up on the wall, you are right. And there were two thoughts behind this decision:

1. I wanted to make sure I was adding more height to this space by placing them closer to the ceiling and eliminating a lot of empty space above the photos.

2. My goal is to add some wood work to this entry eventually, perhaps in the form of wainscoting or maybe even some faux shiplap? If I go with the wainscoting, I want it to be pretty high up so that it would be taller than church pew.

I am so happy with how this Shutterfly project turned out.
I love that when someone walks into our home now, they will immediately see the three most beautiful + important things in my life.

If you've been toying around with the idea of creating a space in your home with some high impact visuals of your family, I would highly recommend using Shutterfly to help you create the perfect space.


Of course, now that I've got some beautiful artwork hung up in the entryway, now I'm forced to have to add a new rug, perhaps paint the inside of the front doors, replace the light fixture and add a little more charm to the space. *wink*

I am fully aware that decorating a home is a life-long project. I giggle to myself when I hear people express their desires to finally be "done" with a specific space they've been working on. Really? Because being "done" never really happens for me. I LOVE changing things up too much to ever think something will ever be final or permanent. Anyone else like that?
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