Category Archives: parties

Thanksgiving replay

Happy Thanksgiving week! In honor of the upcoming holiday and because I just realized that the post I was going to share with you today is nearly identical to the one I wrote exactly one year ago today, I’m re-posting it for your enjoyment. Because what is Thanksgiving than a chance to eat the exact same thing you did the year before (cranberry salsa), watch the same football teams play each other and re-invigorate that same nauseous feeling you have every time you go overboard on stuffing. Without further ado:

Originally published on November 25, 2014. Edited for relocating purposes.

OMG it’s Thanksgiving week y’all!

I know. I can hardly believe it either.

I can hardly believe it because we’ve been experiencing full-on Christmastime weather here in Chicago summertime weather here in Florida. Saturday was the annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, complete with 14 degree wind chills and boughs of frozen holly. Sunday was unseasonably lovely, complete with 80 degree temps and neighbors sweating while decking their halls.

As a staunch no Christmas cheer before Thanksgiving is here supporter, I must admit this weather is throwing me for a loop. Our rapid decline super cheery warm sunny weird November temps has me ever-so-close to NOT decking my halls. Pair that with an especially tempting out of context holiday collection from Target and I nearly broke my own cardinal red rule this season don’t know if I’ll ever get into the spirit this year.

I may even have purchased a pillow from the above collection new pair of sandals this weekend and tucked it away for later decorating wore them the next day.

What a difference a year makes

 

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So I invite you to join me in slowing down on the Christmas craziness. There’s plenty of time for finding the perfect palm tree. Weeks and weeks until you finally pick the last piece of glitter sand out of your hair. Let’s not be too rushed to miss the reason we gather together this week and stuff our bellies. After all, we’ve got Pilgrims to thank!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I offer you the most welcomed holiday recipe you will ever bring. On a buffet full of taupes, tans and cocoas, this red gem stands out not only in color, but in taste. I invite you to share it as an appetizer before your Thanksgiving feast, or carry it through your holiday parties into the New Year.

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It’s fresh. It’s sweet. It’s tangy. It’s your go-to contribution for potlucks all season long. Special shout out to my cousin Lindsey for bringing this on Christmas Day a few years ago. It’s really become the gift that keeps on giving.

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Holiday Cranberry Salsa 

  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 red pepper, seeded
  • 1/2 med red onion
  • 1/2-3/4 C sugar
  • 1/3 C apple juice
  • 1 jalapeno
  • zest of 1 lime (plus a little juice)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (1/4 C)
  • Kosher salt to taste

Rough chop apples, peppers and onions. In a food processor, chop fresh cranberries. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add apple, peppers and onion to food processor. Chop until finely diced. Add to cranberries in bowl. Finally, chop cilantro. Add sugar, apple juice, lime zest and lime juice. Add cilantro and salt to taste.

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The sugar will start to pull out the liquid in the cranberries and so be sure to give it a few hours to sit. Serve with blue corn chips as an appetizer, as a relish on turkey or over cream cheese with crackers.

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I hope you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends. What a great time to be thankful for all we have been given this year.

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Da Fam, Da Bears, Da Treats!

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What music do mummies listen too?

Wrap Music.

This Halloween joke was brought to you by Brent J. from Upper Arlington, Ohio

Thanks Brent!

I apologize for my blog infrequency but you know I’m not one to miss a holiday so it’s only fitting that I bring it back for one of my favorites.

I love Halloween. I would say it’s my favorite holiday but I say that about every holiday so I doubt you would believe me if I did.

Halloween is totally my favorite holiday.

I’m the kind of girl who gets into the spirit by making an entire batch of chocolate covered pretzels 7 days ago only to find out that Halloween was not for another week.

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Speaking of spirits.

Why do ghosts make good cheerleaders?

Because they have a lot of spirit.

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I found these googlie eyes a few weeks back and couldn’t get the idea of googlie-eyed ghosts out of my head ever since.

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If you were ever wondering where I get ideas for things to make, the above statement about sums it up. There’s really no planning involved. An idea comes out of nearly nowhere and once it’s in my head I can’t get rid of it until the sugar cookie dough has set, the royal icing has been mixed and the googlie eyes placed. It’s a blessing and a curse really.

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I won’t get into the recipes as I broke them down in this post, but just know that if you want a soft and chewy royally-iced goblin, you are going to need a few hours of outlining time.

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And outlining time takes away from what the heck are we going to dress up as this year time so I’m off to figure that out.

What do you call a ghost’s mother and father?

Transparents.

30!

I’m thirty. 30 years old!

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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.

Approaching 30

Do you know how hard it is to write a recap of a weekend you aren’t ready to let go of yet?

Hard.

Chicago had everything going for it this weekend. Great food, perfect weather, a music festival that keeps hundreds of thousands in Grant Park so you can enjoy the rest of the city crowd-free and a surprise birthday party with nearly all of my friends and family.

Wait, what?

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I flew back to Chicago this weekend to celebrate one of my best friends and former roommate at her baby shower.

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I was expecting to cuddle a few babies, hoping to catch up with my Chicago friends and planning on eating as much ethnic food as I could to get me through until the next visit. I love your sunshine Florida but nothing compares to Chicago for food.

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We decided on a small get-together Saturday evening to make it easy on the new parents in the group, not much changing from our parties of the past except an inverse ratio of sip cups and flip cups and a universal awareness of the potential of finger pinches and stair falls.

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I was thrilled that all of my friends made the effort to come over with their kids, especially considering bedtimes might be off and meltdowns might occur. And I was pleased yet confused to see each of them show up with a dish to share, while I the out-of-towner had nothing to contribute to the cause. If you know me well you know how much something like this troubles me.

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I was completely content and happy, enjoying a perfect summer night with some of my favorite people when my mom walked onto the deck, followed by my sister, Owen and Jake. Dad would show up a few minutes later in typical Murf fashion as I tried to quell my tears and perspiration from the shock.

I flashed back to my 15th birthday when after finishing a family dinner at home, I was told I had a present in the basement that I should go “check out.” I embarrassingly descended the stairs to be greeted by my closest Freshman guy and girlfriends who were waiting to surprise me, each adorned with a different color plastic lei. I was equal parts mortified and excited. Mortified that they had been waiting in my wood-paneled basement throughout dinner and excited to jam out to some TLC and BSB songs for the rest of the night. 

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The good news about approaching 30 is that selfless acts of kindness no longer embarrass you.

The bad news is they make you sob uncontrollably.

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A good friend is someone who lets you believe you are celebrating her all weekend and then goes and throws a surprise party for you along the way. Or someone who with her own family in town and a 4-week-old baby, coordinates cake and fruit platters to celebrate. The one who sits in traffic longer than the party probably lasted to be there. The one you’ve known since you were 10 who was in attendance for the wood-paneled basement surprise and just hours ago returned from a cross-country flight back from California with a toddler.

Note: the husbands, too. Even though I didn’t get any photos of any of them, they deserve a little credit as well. 

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And a great family. A great family will detour their way through the northern part of the state and back, spend the better part of the day at LegoLand and then trek all the way into the city just to be there to celebrate with you and your friends. On Lollapalooza weekend no less.

These people and that city make it hard for a girl to recap a weekend she wishes she was still in the middle of.

Nonetheless, I’m feeling pretty good about this whole 30 thing.

Lessons in layer cake

Some of you may remember when I made my first attempt at an ombré cake back in March for my
Mom’s birthday.

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It wasn’t a complete flop but I rushed through it, failing to execute the preschool-mastered skill of color order. Yes, it still tasted good and fit in with the whole St. Patrick’s day theme that weekend, but I knew I’d need to try it again when I could devote the time and patience it took to not screw it up.

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So in celebration of Matt’s birthday this week I decided to give it another shot.

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My first tip with making this cake is to do it on a Sunday afternoon when you have no commitments other than careful measuring and wait time. If you’re anything like me, you often try to multitask when you cook and bake.

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This is not the cake to do that with. This layer cake is a special occasion type of cake because it is equal parts time-consuming and indulgent. From the cake to the buttercream icing, there’s no shortage of butter and that’s a good thing. Throw out your paleo/whole/vegan/healthy eating plan for enough time to eat a slice. You can thank me later.

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Ombre layer cake 

  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened (can substitute 1/2 C vegetable shortening if you want)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 C flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Ideally this is the time to grease and flour all four of your cake pans. Oh you don’t have four cake pans? Me neither. Grease and flour two of them and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar 1 cup at a time. Add eggs one at a time until each is combined.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a liquid measure, combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, alternating between milk mixture and flour. Try not to overmix.

Place four medium bowls out on your counter. Divide batter into each bowl evenly. For me it was just under 2 cups of batter per bowl. Add no food coloring to the first bowl. I like to use gel food coloring as I find it’s a little more accurate.  Add one toothpick of color into the second bowl and mix until combined. Two for the next and closer to four for the final one. The key here is to only mix the batter until the color is combined as the colored layers already tend to be a little tougher than those that aren’t.

Need another photo to take a break from the instructions? Me too.

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Once your layers are colored, pour the first two into your two baking pans and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These layers are thin so they will cook relatively quick.

Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of parchment or wax paper to your rack before you flip them out of the pan to make turning easier for you when they are cool. Trust me it helps. Wash and dry your pans to bring them back to room temperature before you bake your other two layers.

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Once your second batch is out of the oven and cooling you can start on your buttercream icing. This stuff is indulgent so I usually keep it pretty thin. That being said both times I’ve made this cake I’ve had to make extra buttercream icing to get it covered so go ahead and make a bunch.

Buttercream Icing

  • 3-4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 TBL whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Cream butter in a stand mixer and add powdered sugar slowly so as not to go all King James on your kitchen. Add vanilla and cream and whip it until peaks form. Refrigerate it until you are ready to ice the cake.

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Once your layers are cool, wrap each of them in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few minutes. this will make the icing process much easier.

When you are ready to ice your cake, check your layer order several times before you place them on your cake stand. Trust me. The two middle layers look a lot a like and can be very deceiving. Do a rough ice and then finish it off with, you guess it, more buttercream.

I like to keep this cake in the fridge between servings because let’s face it, it’s going to take you at least a week to eat it all. Offer it up to friends or strangers that you just met. Everybody loves a good layer cake.

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Dunk tanks and Explosives

This weekend I flew home to celebrate my nephew’s 8th birthday, complete with a mix of water sports, explosives and cotton candy. I know what you’re thinking. What else could a bunch of 8 year-old boys want, right?

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Right.

I can take little to no credit for the party or the details because my sister handled it all herself. Perks of moving thousands of miles away I guess. Since Owen’s birthday falls just after the holiday, he’s chosen to celebrate it outside shooting water at his friends for the past several years. And this year was no different, except that he decided he wanted it to be Fourth of July-themed as well. Talk about a practical kid!

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My sister rented a cotton candy machine and a dunk tank. We held the entire party outside in my parent’s backyard and sprinkled in a few kid-friendly fireworks, complete with a Jake-led water gun crew to put out the flames once the show was over. These boys are all on a baseball team together so it was the perfect mix of sports and sugar.

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Happy Golden Birthday Owen! I’m so glad I was able to celebrate with you this weekend!

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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