Category Archives: design

Christmas Cookies: New Additions to the Family

If you follow me on social media and/or are a co-worker or family member (which let’s face it is about 99.9% of my readers), then you know I recently finished up a batch of sugar cookies.

I know what you’re thinking.

We get it Sarah. You bake. Blah. Blah. Blah. 

If that’s what you’re saying in your head right now, you’ll be happy to know I was ‘over them’ about a week ago. Truth is, if I don’t post about them today, we’ll be into the New Year and my sugar cookie-filled jolliness will be overwhelmed by resolutions and complaining about all the new people at the gym.

So in an effort to not repeat myself from year’s past posts about similarly shaped cookies, I’ll simply focus today’s post on the new additions to the Murphy Zalewski Christmas Cookie Family.

Fun fact: Did you know that Matt doesn’t even like these sugar cookies? Each year I end up making alternative batches of cookies and treats each year for him because he prefers a soft cookie to a hard one.

#peoplepleaser

Christmas sugar cookies, royal icing, santa christmas cookie, christmas sugar cookies, snowman cookies, ornament cookies, christmas tree cookies, holly cookies, stocking cookies, present cookies, decorating, wilton,

This year’s bunch featured some old favorites (see presents and trees) and a few newbies.

Christmas sugar cookies, royal icing, santa christmas cookie, christmas sugar cookies, snowman cookies, ornament cookies, christmas tree cookies, holly cookies, stocking cookies, present cookies, decorating, wilton,

Christmas sugar cookies, royal icing, santa christmas cookie, christmas sugar cookies, snowman cookies, ornament cookies, christmas tree cookies, holly cookies, stocking cookies, present cookies, decorating, wilton,

It’s amazing what opportunities open up when you decide to add two new colors to the mix. The trees got trunks, Frosty got a hat and nose and Frosty’s faceless friend Gingerbread George made an appearance.

Christmas sugar cookies, royal icing, santa christmas cookie, christmas sugar cookies, snowman cookies, ornament cookies, christmas tree cookies, holly cookies, stocking cookies, present cookies, decorating, wilton,

In other news I finally discovered that the squiggly portion of the ornament was actually the metal part so they joined the fam again after a few years of being shunned for their awkwardness around the holiday.

Christmas sugar cookies, royal icing, santa christmas cookie, christmas sugar cookies, snowman cookies, ornament cookies, christmas tree cookies, holly cookies, stocking cookies, present cookies, decorating, wilton,

And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite Santa, who got a spray tan and his brows done for the 2016 holiday season.

Christmas sugar cookies, royal icing, santa christmas cookie, christmas sugar cookies, snowman cookies, ornament cookies, christmas tree cookies, holly cookies, stocking cookies, present cookies, decorating, wilton,

In an effort to always improve, I thought this year might be a good time to share how far we’ve come with this particular Christmas cookie family.

Christmas sugar cookies, royal icing, santa christmas cookie, christmas sugar cookies, snowman cookies, ornament cookies, christmas tree cookies, holly cookies, stocking cookies, present cookies, decorating, wilton,

And just like the holiday season, some years your tree is pretty and some years Santa threw back one too many before the annual family photo. The important thing is that you all spent time together.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m off to make a long and unrealistic list of fitness and organizational goals for the coming year. Here’s to giving it the old college try!

Happy New Year!

 

Wedding Snapshots: the details

When it comes to wedding and party photos, I’m a sucker for detail shots. And if you’re a sucker for detail shots then we should be best friends. Which is pretty much what our photographer and I became as soon as I looked at her work and saw that she appreciated the little details just as much as I do.

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There’s just something in the details. Don’t get me wrong, you may not get the same emotion with a detail shot as you do with a candid, but I love the way that the details give you a feel for the entire day. As if the theme (if there is one) is all wrapped up into a pretty little detailed package.

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So without further ado, here are some details from our wedding day taken by the talented Wright Photographs out of Champaign.
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Sand Art

Before I begin this post I’d like to issue a disclaimer for my readers to the north.

Disclaimer: this post references 80-degree weather in November but is in no way intended to be a gloat, brag or the like. I braved enough winters in the Midwest to be empathetic during this time. Please accept my apologies for the unseasonably cold spike. Should you consider a trip to visit because of the following photos, I will not deter you. Seriously though. Come see us!

Do you remember when you were little and you would convince your mom, dad or aunt who happened to live in California to spend ridiculous amounts of money on colored sand art you would take home and display proudly next to the rock collection on your shelf?

I do.

And perhaps that’s the reason I took more than 20 photos this weekend of sand. But not just any sand. Sand art sand. The kind of sand art that takes 3 full days and a wee bit of elmer’s glue to complete. Don’t believe me? Check this out.

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Sand not your thing? Well if you come visit me I will treat you to a bag of the best mini donuts you’ve ever tasted. Sorry Illinois State Fair. Siesta Key mini donuts have just taken the lead for best donuts to be eaten in full sun while counting how many people you see without their shirts on.

siesta key crystal classic, sand sculptures, sand castles, siesta key beach, crystal classic, florida, vacation, margaritaville

 

Stay warm, Midwest!

Moving Day

Hey there. Me again. Back after a brief hiatus with more photos and fewer words. I promise I’ll be back on a regular schedule once we are all moved in but until then I hope you’ll settle for a photo update of the last few days.

Friday was spent down in Champaign celebrating with family and friends before the 5th running of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Technically this year marks the 6th annual race but this was the 5th year of our family running let’s just go with that.

christie clinic illinois marathon, racing, half marathon, champaign, family,

It was so nice to see my Champaign family and to squeeze the little ones before we leave. We were blessed (and cursed) with nice weather throughout the weekend as well, making for a very hot race the next day.

christie clinic illinois marathon, racing, half marathon, champaign, family,

Jake and Owen came over for the youth run on Saturday well-prepared with their under armor superhero shirts. I missed the run but highlights included Jake getting a side stitch approximately 30 seconds into a 1K distance, Owen blazing to the finish and Jake asking the volunteer why he was getting a medal if he didn’t win.

Saturday evening we celebrated our move with some of our closest Chicago friends. I feel very blessed to have had these girls (and guys) in my life over the last 6 years and will miss them so much. It’s so nice to have a bunch of people to look forward to visiting each time we come back though.

chicago going away party, haymarket pub, friends, Chicago

Approximately 4 hours of sleep later we were onto Sunday where we celebrated the upcoming arrival of the first grandchild on Matt’s side. If you can’t tell by the shower colors, it’s a girl.

girls baby shower, tassel garland, candy bar, sweets table, diaper cake, pink baby shower,

5 or so hours of sleep later it was moving day. Chicago sent us off just about the same way it treated us all winter long with gray skies and wet conditions but we made the most of it. We had a bit of a fiasco with our movers last-minute so we called in some family to help us make the trip. Once the truck was packed, Matt and his brother started the trip down and I headed to Springfield to pick up my dad and Finn.

spring weather, chicago moving day, moving truck

I’m not typically one to consider signs but I am now convinced that Bloomington hates me. You may recall I ran into a big winter storm coming through Bloomington a few months back so I guess it’s only fitting to get hit with a tornado warning on my last trip home.

So dad and I hit the road early this morning with the hope of making it to our new home in a day or so. Matt and his brother are of course already nearly there thanks to a few naps and a lot of caffeine.

Next stop, Florida.

florida_home

Showering Baby King

One of my best friends is having a baby!

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower,

If that phrase sounds familiar to you, it should. I’ve been saying it on repeat now for the last two years and probably will for at least another one. Yes, at times it does seem surreal that the girls I transitioned from friendship bracelets to bars with are now in charge of tiny humans, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It melts my heart to be able to celebrate the excitement and joy that comes with becoming a mother for the first time with them. Not that I know specifically what it’s like to become a mother for the first time but I’m excited and joyful nonetheless. Combine that with a cross-country move in a few weeks and I’m probably more hormonal than the mother-to-be.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

The good news is I was a little too frantic with the set-up to get emotional before the shower. I was also a little too sidetracked during it to get very many photos of actual people, but I did get a little choked up going through the detail shots afterwards.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

I know what you’re thinking. Man this girl is into details. And while I did fall a little hard for my ‘nearly took more time than the big one’ mini tassel cake topper, my reaction is more for the big life changes ahead for my girlfriend than the party details.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

Do you ever have those moments where you realize your life is about to change in a huge way? Baby showers, weddings, graduations, first communions and the like bring on those moments for me. There’s often a pause of clarity during the celebration where I look at everyone around me and realize the shift that is happening.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower,

Life is changing. You’re going to be a mom, a wife, a new employee, a grown up who gets to eat that weird host thing that tastes like plastic. You’ve never done this before. It’s nerve-wrecking, but the overwhelming sense of excitement that comes with it makes it all worthwhile. Life is changing and it’s going to be better than it’s ever been.

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Yes, baby showers are cute and Pinterest-friendly.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

And guests actually enjoy watching you open gifts because there’s often tiny little outfits among the packages, but my favorite part about any event comes after the tables are broken down and the treat bags are distributed.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

It’s after all of that when you realize how lucky you are to have friends and family to support and celebrate you on the journey. And while you may be nervous or excited about what’s to come, you know that each of them are just as excited as you are and can’t wait to share it with you.

gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower, sweets table, cake table, pleated cake, mini tassel garland cake topper, tassel garland,

Time flies. Before you know it the little girl you were showering last year is sitting down eating cake right next to you. Life is changing and it’s getting better than ever.

 

 

 

 

Farewell Chicago: Feeling Fortunate

As our moving date approaches, I’m becoming increasingly aware of just how fortunate I am. I guess leaving a place after six years will do that to you. By now most everyone is privy to the big changes on our horizon and as much as I try not to think about saying goodbye just yet, the goodbyes are already being said to me.

sweet home chicago banner, farewell tour of chicago, chicago skyline banner

It’s a good thing, really, to be spoken highly of and told you how much your presence will be missed around the office, neighborhood or nearby Nordstrom Cafe. It’s a really good thing, but it forces to you realize how much of that day-to-day interaction you take for granted.

I’m going to miss the fact that the manager at the Nordstrom Cafe now knows me by first name thanks to my love of half cilantro chicken salads and scones.

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I’m going to miss the friendly waves and the ‘what did Finn eat this week’ my neighbors and I exchange each evening as we walk around the park.

swiss mountain dog puppy, west loop, chicago, mary bartelme park

And I’m going to really miss the association family I’ve built over the past 5 years at NAR. If you think about it, you spend more time with your co-workers than nearly anyone else and I’ve been very lucky to have built a lot of friendships with my co-workers along the way.NAR_group

When I moved to the city, I was so worried about getting caught up in the pack. Of being just another face in the crowd. Little did I know just how small-town this city can feel. In walking Michigan Avenue over the years, I’ve run into college friends, Kelsey Grammar, best friends, baseball players, cousins, country music stars, friends of the family and more furs and plastic surgery botches than I care to count. OK so those celebs are not exactly small-town types but cool nonetheless.

It’s only in saying goodbye that I truly realize how thankful I am for the relationships this city has helped me build.

One coping mechanism I’ve found very helpful is to jam every free moment with social events and time with family and friends up until the night before you leave town. You should try it. I’m off to a great start. Granted, I have yet to pack and don’t have any free time for that in the foreseeable future, but you better believe I’m going to max out on the quality time until we go.

This weekend my parents are coming up to visit and I’m helping to host a baby shower for one of my closest friends. I’ll hopefully have a wrap up post later this weekend but here’s a sneak peek at some of the details. I’ve been itching to do a gender neutral shower after a flurry of boys then girls so I can’t wait to celebrate little baby King!

gender neutral baby shower ideas, chevron, gray and white baby shower, paper straws, tassel garland, bokeh

 

Have a great weekend!

Oh look, more snowflakes

Happy Monday y’all!

I’m in my southern character today, accent and all, in an attempt to escape the cold spell we’re about to get hit with again. I don’t know about you but I’m over the snow. Fortunately, I’m at the tail-end of a rare four-day weekend, so I can’t let another mini polar vortex ruin my day-off spirit.

Speaking of snowflakes, this weekend we celebrated the first birthday of yet another one of my best friend’s daughters with a winter ‘one’derland theme.

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winter onederland birthday party, first birthday party winter theme, hot chocolate bar, cupcakes, birthday party ideas,

If you were reading along last year, we threw a series of baby showers for an influx of little girls coming our way throughout the winter season. Four to be exact. It’s hard to believe they are all turning one already. If you mommas are reading this, you might want to consider another theme for year two as each party has been accompanied by LOTS of snowflakes, both inside and out.

grayson first birthday, winter onederland theme, little girl birthday party ideas

My girlfriend went all out with this theme so Grayson could celebrate her first birthday with 60 of her closest friends and family. Little lady is barely one and she already has a higher attendance record than I do. Both my friend and her husband come from large families so shoe counts like this are not uncommon.

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After lunching on hot dips, chopped salad, mac n’ cheese and baked mostaccioli, guests enjoyed the hot chocolate bar, dozens of cupcakes, cookies, brownies and sweet treats galore.

winter onederland birthday party, first birthday party winter theme, snowman oreos, snowman marshmallows, iced snowflake sugar cookies, birthday party ideas,

In reference to the photo above, you are in fact seeing double. Grayson’s cousins are twins, 16 months old and lightning fast. I was just happy to get them both in the frame.

winter onederland birthday party, first birthday party winter theme, birthday party ideas,

I think it’s safe to say Grayson had a great time at her party. According to her mother she had so much fun that she decided to wake up every 3 hours later that night to see if anyone still wanted to celebrate.

i had a little free time on Friday so I made a batch of snowflake sugar cookies. Completely unnecessary as my friend had plenty of sweets, but they fit in nonetheless.

iced snowflake sugar cookies, royal icing, snowflake sugar cookies, winter wonderland first birthday party, simply social blog

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iced snowflake sugar cookies, royal icing, snowflake sugar cookies, winter wonderland first birthday party, simply social blog

I’m off to get a few more things done before the snow starts again. Have a great week!