Category Archives: gift

Let’s Talk About Christmas Lists

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas Lists. You see, I’ve always enjoyed the tradition of paging through catalogs around the table after Thanksgiving, each family member attempting to jog memories of all the things they desperately needed throughout the year but can’t seem to remember when the blank yellow pad of paper is in front of them.

Who doesn’t need a new pair of fuzzy LLBean slippers? I could use another blanket for the couch. One can never have enough cable knit throws, can they? Nope. Especially when one lives in a tropical climate. 

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I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas lists because my love language is gift giving. I get it from my Nana. And while I love the idea of getting someone something that is written on their Christmas list, there’s an internal struggle I have each year around this time between buying what’s on the list and buying what’s NOT on the list.

Yep. I’m that girl. The girl who wrecks her brain for weeks trying to come up themes for everyone’s gifts, crafty and homemade additions to the gifts or, if the Christmas magic is really with her, the perfect gift for the person who doesn’t necessarily know what the perfect gift is. That, my friends, is the spirit of Christmas if you’re a gift giver at heart. Well, that and the birth of Jesus, but the Magi have that one covered.

And depending on your family and the members in it, you may fall on one side or another when it comes to gift lists, too.

There’s the mom who stuffs her purse with various iterations of other people’s lists but never really manages to end up with anything on hers. It’s ok though. Stick with anything that smells good, feels soft or keeps her warm, preferably in a neutral shade and you’re good to go.

Or the older nephew who unlike any other 9 year-old in town, tells you he doesn’t really need anything this year.

Or the sister who every day leading up to Christmas is very interested in what’s on every other family member’s list yet only manages to list one gift on her own. And a very small one at that.

And if we’re talking about lists, I’d be remiss to not mention the dad who if he’s anything like my dad, Murfs up any holiday with his version of a wish list. You may remember the years he spent asking for a conga drum so he could…

“…jam at some gigs with some cool cats.” 

Or the Father’s Day request for the book, Five Strides on the Banked Track: The Life and Times of the Roller Derby

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised then when I received an email from my dad with the subject line: “Dad’s xmas list add-on” a link that led us here.

Just a houseboat add-on to this year’s list huh, Murf? Let’s not discuss the barriers to gifting the aforementioned item such as loan restrictions, satellite installation for his DVR habit or the simple fact that he still resides in the Midwest. Those things aside, for the past 275 days or so, I’ve been reminded about the houseboat interest via text message and in conversation. The barriers to the now digitally recorded wish list item are endless yet the drive still seems to be there.

The gift of list making is strong with this one.

So I remind you as you open your Christmas presents this year, consider the gift giver’s intention before you scoff at those bracelets you assumed were napkin rings.

After all, as I was told my great-grandfather used to say each time this year,

We all got all too G*d D*mn much. 

Happy Holidays!


A Christmas wish

Dear Santa,
This is Finnegan Murphy here. You may not have our new address because my family moved to a place where there is no snow in the wintertime.

christmas in florida, holidays, florida, IMG_8625

If anyone will understand my situation it’s you. I’m a Swiss MOUNTAIN dog for goodness sake. I live for snow. I like to pounce in the snow, eat snow, freeze my paws in the snow (not the salty sidewalk just the snow) stick my nose in the snow and eat the snow. All of it.

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There’s no snow here. None. I’ve tried to eat that grainy stuff by the water but it’s not the same. Trust me. So you’ll forgive me if I’m having a hard time finding my holiday spirit this year.

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I’ve been waiting patiently for winter to come since we made that super long car ride, but it’s still warm here. Sure there are weird inflatable creatures that I’m not allowed to play with in everyone’s yard but did I mention there’s no snow? What’s a guy to do without the one thing he loves more than his mom and dad? And peanut butter. And car rides. And naps.

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On January 9th I turn two and a half. My mom and dad seem to think I’m much older than that because they keep leaving me for long (and short) periods of time without supervision. Crazy, right? I still need them. Like must be touching them at all times to keep them from touching each other need them.

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So I’ve been trying my best to show them how much I miss them by displacing items they love from their permanent locations while they are gone. What kind of things you might ask? Well anything that they will notice obviously. So there’s a couple holes in mom’s favorite t-shirt. Dad has plenty of koozies in the drawer so he won’t miss it if I just eat one of them. LL Bean sends a catalog at least once a week anyways. Come to think of it mom did seem particularly upset when I learned how to open drawers and moved her DSLR camera from the island to the kitchen floor so you may want to bring her something nice this year to make up for that. My bad.


I know they love me. I can tell because they leave food out for me while they’re at work, Santa! They hang the bananas up so high on the counter I really have to stretch to get to them and end up knocking other stuff over in the process, but it’s totally worth it. I love bananas, peel and all. Just like I love snow. And naps. And peanut butter…

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Anyways. I guess if I had one wish this Christmas it would be for my mom and dad to lose their jobs so they could stay home with me all day long.

Too harsh?

Ok what if you help them win the Lotto?

Too much?

Fine. If I can’t have any of that I will just ask for a few toys that will wear my brain out so I can take more naps. Stuff like this.


Or this.


And just one more thing as you evaluate your lists this year, Santa. I’m sure you’ve noticed that mom and dad brought a giant tree into our house and I’m not even allowed to pee on it? What’s up with that?

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Barks and kisses,

Finnegan Murphy




I’m thirty. 30 years old!


Thirty! I did it. I finally passed the last milestone birthday that all of my friends passed nearly a year before me! Being the youngest of the group, I was used to being last in line for all age-related events. Last to drive at 16, last to do whatever a non-smoker is allowed to do at 18 and the last to legally drink at 21. Now don’t feel too bad for me. Looking back, I can see now that it actually worked out in my favor. I had cool friends to drive me to and from school, to book rental cars when we went on trips and to illustrate which liquor you should not make your best friend on your 21st birthday. Tequila maybe. Whiskey no way. I remember thinking that when they all turned thirty, I would still be 29. And how cool that would be to still be 29 when all your friends were old and thirty. turning 30, birthday, friends Well I realized about a year ago that it’s neither cool nor old. Thirty is not the old age I (and probably every other 24 year old who is reading this) thinks it is. There’s a shift that happens about the age of 26 or 27 where you suddenly realize that you are rapidly approaching the thirty year-old you thought was so old just a few years ago. I am now that thirty year-old that kids just out of college scoff at. Only I don’t feel very different than them. Minus pretty much all of these things. I stayed up until 2 a.m. this weekend. Only it was because my mom and sister’s flight got delayed, not because we wanted to hit up the late-night bar and watch the sun come up. I cannot tell you the last time I willingly stayed up that late. And I’m ok with that. As if last weekend’s surprise party wasn’t enough, my mom and sister came down to visit me in Florida this weekend to celebrate the official birthday. You don’t realize how loved you are until you live really far away and people go out of their way to make you feel special on your birthday. turning 30, birthday, friends   On Saturday, we headed down to St. Armands and Lido Beach. Lido Beach, St Armands, Florida, family, birthday   And on Sunday we spent most of the day at Siesta Key, followed by a sunset dinner along the beach on Anna Marie Island. beach, florida, family, birthday, swiss mountain dog, sunset, anna marie island, siesta key beach, florida, family, birthday, swiss mountain dog, sunset, anna marie island, siesta key   It was so nice to spend some quality time with just my mom and sister. If the next two-thirds of my life look anything like theirs, I can’t wait to get there. Thank you again for all the well-wishes over the weekend. I’m excited for the year ahead.

Banana Crumb Muffins

If you’ve been reading my recipe posts as of late, you’ll know that I’ve been doing everything in my power to avoid turning on my oven this summer. With the exception of this ombre birthday cake for Matt’s birthday, I have stuck with no-cook or grilling meals to combat the summer heat.

When Rizzi from the New York Baking Company asked me to review their silicone baking cups, my first thought was, oh crap I actually have to turn on my oven for this. Just kidding. A paper muffin liner user for life, I was excited to see how these colorful creations handled the heat. See what I did there?

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My first inclination was cupcakes. After all, these cups are pretty colorful and would look great for a kid’s birthday party or some other colorful event. After a decently long internal dialogue about delivery and recovery issues if I were to bring these potential cupcakes somewhere to share, I decided muffins might make the best first attempt since I could remove the cups before serving.

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I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical at first. These silicone baking cups didn’t have the bake-eat-and-toss feature that my paper or foil liners did. What if they didn’t look good with the type of muffin I wanted to make? Or they clashed with the cupcake icing I was hoping to create? Yes, I do realize these thoughts are completely first-world in nature, but I’m just being honest.

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So I went with my trusted banana crumb muffin that started as a bread recipe, knowing I could best judge the texture having eating one or twenty in the past.

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Banana Crumb Muffins

  • 3-4 overripe bananas
  • 1/3 C melted unsalted butter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 C Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 C Flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Crumb topping

  • 2 TBL flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 C oats
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/3 C brown sugar

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, cream melted butter and sugar together. Add egg until combined. Add bananas and vanilla and mix until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk flours, baking soda and salt together.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, being careful not to overmix.

Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. I have a hot oven (hotter than most) and noticed mine were done closer to 16 minutes in.

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It wasn’t until I pulled these out of the oven that I started to see the opportunities. Yes you would need to keep track of them, but if you bought another set, these cups could be perfect for Illini tailgates (or Gator ones I suppose) and the other colors could be coordinated based on holidays or events. They do make a basic muffin really pop don’t they?

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My only issue was I had a little too much batter leftover after 12 muffins and only one set of silicone cups. Typically I would just grab an extra paper liner or two, but in this case I dumped the rest. Don’t feel bad, it was barely enough for one more muffin.

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Compact, BPA free, dishwasher-safe and a great gift idea, you can get your own silicone baking cups on Amazon.

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Have a great weekend. I’m counting down the hours until my mom and sister come to visit. Eeek!


Creative Wedding Crafts…


I recently got the Handmade Weddings book as a gift for a good friend of mine who is getting married this year. I thought it might drum up some excitement at the 6-month-out mark when most of the big planning is over and the waiting game begins. Whether your are crafty or just looking for ideas to hand off to your wedding planner, this is a great coffee table book for a soon-to-be bride.

Christmas Cookie Creations…


Occasionally I bake. Ok, so maybe I bake a lot. Especially around the holidays. And this year was no exception. I love the holidays because it gives me an excuse to crack out the sprinkles and try some new recipes. This year i went a little nuts on cookies, and cake balls, and bark and pretzels. 
The best part about baking all these things is the gift boxes that come as a result. Who doesn’t love a variety of home-baked goodies as a gift? Here’s hoping I can rid of them all before the New Year.

Festive Fabric Flowers…


It’s not often that I post about much else besides food, but when I saw this fun holiday wreath on the Our Best Bites blog I just had to try my hand at making the rolled fabric flowers that fill it. After all, it looked easy enough.. cut strips of fabric, roll, twist and glue. Normally, attempts at homemade craftiness end up costing me more than buying the ‘pottery barn version,’ but in this case it worked! These flowers were really easy to make and by simply pinning them, along with some berries I had from Christmas decor, you have versatility versus gluing them on. Try swapping them out depending on the season or adding them to other items like a scarf or hat. They make great holiday gifts as well! Check out the our best bites blog for detailed instructions.

Rolled Fabric Flower Wreath

>Create Cute Cards…

>If you’re anything like me you have a million printed out recipes on folded pieces of paper and shoved inside cook books throughout your kitchen. While my mother insists that the best recipes are the ones with the drips and stains from years of use and I tend to agree, keeping your go-to recipes in an organized (and protected) cook book is a great way to find them in a flash. Enter Skip to my Lou and their fun do-it-yourself recipe card maker. Now you can put all your favorite recipes on uniquely designed cards and print them yourself. Use them to keep your recipes consistent or print your favorite recipe and include it in your next shower or hostess gift.

>A Unique Gift Idea


These La Fresh towelettes from Real Simple could make a unique gift for a shower or birthday.