5 on Friday

My sister sent Joel and I a bunch of Chicago spices from The Spice House for Christmas and we are obsessed. They've upped our game for fajitas, steak, chicken....seriously such a great gift idea!  

 I am so excited for Christmas and our trip to Mexico but I'm already sad for the anticipation of Christmas to be over. I just don't want to holiday season to end! On the flip side, it might be nice to start actually saving some money again...

I'm in full holiday mode and that means lots of Christmas cookies and cocktail hours - and my influence is starting to reach the young ones....

This weekend we are making a night of Christmas cooking baking and then heading down to San Diego to celebrate Christmas with Andrew, Corie, and our sweet nephew Sulley! I'm so excited to celebrate the season with their new addition....it really just makes everything that much more fun and meaningful - and it's crazy to think last year's Christmas they weren't even pregnant!!


Holiday Traditions

Since I was little traditions have been very important to me. I would force my sisters to uphold our traditions (ex. sleeping in the same bed before vacations, holidays, etc. or anything else) whether they wanted to or not.

I got lucky marrying someone who is almost as into traditions as I am.

Joel totally gets on board with all of my crazy little things - and so we've been trying to start a few of our own Christmas traditions that we can start now and then continue when we have kids of our own. 

Sleighbells ring...

::: Christmas Eve Pajamas ::: 
This was my mom's tradition and it's one I will always keep. On Christmas Eve the only gift we could all open as kids were a new pair of pajamas that you could wear that night and into Christmas morning. It was always a fun gift, and I seriously appreciate a good pair of pjs, so it's a nice excuse! 

::: Christmas Cookies ::
I think by calling it a "tradition" I'm just more likely to make a big fuss of it. I like to try new recipes every year and then get them out of my house as quickly as possible. This year we are making a Friday night out of it and then bringing our loot down to San Diego on Saturday morning when we have our 2nd annual Christmas Pizza Off with the San Diego Shields fam. 

::: Holiday Light Tour :::


In Chicago, we didn't need a car, we would just make a night at the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights, but in LA, we've made it into a little date night. This year we went and had a drink and appetizers at Mastro's and then drove through some pretty fantastic neighborhoods to take in the lights.

::: "Take me to...." Church :::
Our church is literally 2 minutes from our house so it's really easy to make it over to the family mass on Christmas Eve. Seeing all the kids sing in the choir and get dressed up puts me in the Christmas spirit more than anything else. 

::: Christmas Eve Lobster :::
Who knows if we will always be home and Christmas Eve, or if we will always host it, but we had so much fun indulging in lobster last year and we're doing it again this year. It's such a decadent dinner and makes Christmas Eve the event that it should be. 

::: Christmas Movies ::: 

We try to get through all of our favorite holiday movies the whole month of December. I watch all of the Hallmark movies too, but Joel's new rule is that if the movie wasn't in the movie theater, he won't watch it. Thankfully that still leaves most of my favorites - Elf, Fred Claus, The Santa Claus, 4 Christmases, Miracle on 34th street....

:::Cinnamon Rolls:::
  a small, but must-have tradition. My mom started this off as kids, and I can't have Christmas morning without them! Now that I'm older, mimosas are served bright and early too.

::: Giving Acts of Kindness ::: 
This year we didn't get a chance to shop for a child in need. For the last 4 years I worked at a company that gave you the opportunity to adopt an angel and shop for his/her needs. I changed jobs in March and never found an outside organization with enough time. I feel really bad about it, so Joel and I decided to do a few random acts of kindness between now and Christmas. Leaving treats for our FedEx guys, paying for someone behind us at line, and tipping generously for great service are the things to do this time of year.

I think traditions are part of what make this time of year special. I'd love to add a few small ones to our list, and I think with kids we will find other special things, but what are your favorite things to do year after year?  


What I Wore

Work It Girl

francesca's dress, gap leggings, cole haan boots, jcrew swaeter
banana republic tank, old navy sweater, target pants, banana republic shooes
michael kors turtlenck, jcrew skirt, burberry scarf, gap leggings, steve madden boots
calvin klien sweater, joes jeans, ivanka trump boots


Weekend Report

The weather on Thursday night in LA was pretty crazy - downtown even had a touchdown tornado. We were safe and fine, but at 2:45 the government cell phone warning thing went off, and literally scared the shit out of us. My blood pressure never went back down enough to fall back asleep, but I was able to enjoy the sound of rain for a solid 3 hours before I finally got out of bed.

 Before my cousins got into town on Friday, I got my cut and colored. My hair has been getting so dark if I don't keep up with it, and it's still not as blonde as I would like, but I'm officially a short hair kinda girl.

For dinner Friday night, my cousins Nick and Cole (and their wives) and Joel and I went to dinner at The Hungry Cat. We had such a fun time and filled ourselves to the brim on seafood and champagne, and the only damn picture I took was this. 

Saturday the four of us and Roscoe went on a pretty tough hike and if you can peak past Roscoe, you can even see a little snow that some of the mountains got. 


After our hike and breakfast outside, Dre and I went to get massages. Nick and Dre had a holiday party for Nick's company, so once they left for dinner, Joel and I made pizzas, moscow mules, and watched Miracle on 34th Street. 

Sunday morning Joel snapped this picture of Roscoe a little too comfortable in our bed.

Roscoe normally sleeps in his kennel, but when we have guests over we let him sleep in our room since his kennel is in the guest room.

My cousin's left early Sunday morning and the only thing Joel and I had to do was plan our trip to Napa in January. After 3 solid hours, we've got a pretty fantastic trip planned. I don't want the holidays to end, but it's nice to have something to look forward to in mid-January. 

hanging chandeliers

I can't believe this is the last week to get ready for Christmas - and for us - Mexico! 
Tis the season.

Tis the season.


(too many) Thursday Thoughts

::: I knew after Thanksgiving work was going to get crazy, but no matter how much preparing you do, it still seems to catch up with you. After today it'll start slowing down until the New Year which is a very nice bonus. 

::: Both Joel and I are very used to having me work from home with the ability and flexibility in my job to also manage to keep the house running. It's a very nice gig and It's actually been somewhat fulfilling to see things not run as smoothly without me. Another reminder to be thankful for the job I do have.

::: Sunday after Christmas shopping, Joel and I grabbed happy hour and then decided to go see Wild. The movie was good, but was very grief focused which I couldn't handle. I spent all two hours of the movie crying and ended up scratching the lense of my eye, so I've been in glasses all week.

::: Maybe it always is, but it feels like it has been a very busy season of life for us. Filled to the brim with goodness, but seriously feel like I'm in a constant state of chaos.

::: Although it's hectic, I'm determined to make time for my favorite holiday things; driving around to see decorated houses, listening to Christmas music and catching on Christmas movies, decorating Christmas cookies, and just trying to enjoy the season as much as possible.

::: Our wine fridge is actually overloaded, and it's been a fun problem to have. Joel got a few great deals on cases and my cousin Erin got a new job as a wine sales rep and she keeps bringing over extra bottles for us. 

::: We leave for Mexico on the 27th, which I actually can't believe. That's just 16 days away!! I actually can't even think about it until the 26th because I don't have room in my brain, but I'm pretty positive that I'm not looking forward to getting into a bathing suit any time soon. 

::: It has been actually hard for me to come up with a Christmas list for myself. I think my problem is that gifts that are affordable, I buy for myself and everything else I want....is far over Santa's budget...so this year, everything I get from Joel or my parents will be a total surprise because I really couldn't offer much help to them.

::: I've also been counting wrapping presents as a workout

10 Christmas Cocktails to keep you sane during the holidays. @nicsita is so good to me!!

Hope you're having a good week!


Five on Friday



Weather wise, this has probably been my most favorite week in Los Angeles....ever! Our weather is always close to perfect, so to have 3 days this week that were cool, rainy, and windy was basically my heaven. Roscoe was not a fan of the rain, and neither was our dry earth here in LA, but I really loved the chance to cozy up and just enjoy the rain.

After our Thanksgiving bender, I needed more than a few days to detox so Joel I tried to be  intentional about getting into bed really early this week, working out, and keeping things light around here (I need a few months of that, but life goes on!)

My (current) favorite tea is this gem from Trader Joe's....it's a good one after dinner because it's very soothing but feels *kind of* like a treat.

Did you watch? Whoa, it's good. It was intense, funny, sad, and real. The first two episodes were on my OnDemand and I couldn't leave the room while they were on. Joel and I watched one together, and I could tell it really freaked him out. Watching the breakdown of a marriage is not exactly light, but the show was good and I'm anxious to see where it goes throughout the season. 

comfort & joy
I have to work a conference most of the weekend, so besides a little Christmas shopping on Sunday, we're not doing too much around here. I hate how fast Christmas seems to be creeping up so I'm trying to spend as many nights at home in front of the tree, and basking in some of the holiday fun as I can.


Christmas House Tour

I love decorating for the holidays and every year I accumulate a few extra goodies that keep making our condo a little more festive. 

And since our layout is just one great room, everything gets pushed into there with the exception of some holiday soap and hand towels.

Let it be known that I am the only door in our hallway that even has a wreath. I'm sure my neighbors think I'm nuts, but I don't care...and our hallways could use some sprucing...

And, then, when you walk in...

It's funny, I would never think that I would decorate with the color red, but almost all of my Christmas decorations have a little something red going on. 

 And I'm keeping everything up until Valentine's day.


Full of....thanks, food, and wine.

It's got to be a really good thing when you come out of Thanksgiving week feeling even more thankful than when you started. 

There is nothing in this world that is better for me than having my whole family in one place.

My parents got in on Tuesday night and apparently, so did the rest of the country. It took us forever to drive home from the airport and so we ditched our fancy dinner reservations and went to our favorite local Mexican restaurant. And tequila and guacamole literally saved my entire day. Traffic and Tess don't get along well.

My sister arrived later that night too...but I forced her to get a cab.

Wednesday was our first official day and since LA got a heat wave we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and went for an early lunch at Shutters on the beach. 


We met up with my cousin Cole and Aunt Betty (who flew in from Atlanta) for a drink, and then went back to my house to start prepping my house and the menu for Thanksgiving. 


I finally got a chance to open and use all of my wedding china and it was way more fun than I could have thought - it was probably the first time I truly enjoyed setting the table. 

We turned my china cabinet into the bar which really helped keep people out of the kitchen area on the day of Thanksgiving.

 After the house was set, we made a corn casserole, brussels sprouts and date salad, and pecan pie (Joel had a list of his own dishes too). We finished up right as our Thai food arrived and after dinner we opened a bottle of wine and watched Elf for the first time this year. 

My black Wednesday was really wild and crazy. 

Joel and I started Thanksgiving off with a Turkey Trot which a tradition we've kept for 8 years strong. 



The high for Thanksgiving was 86, so our run was probably 65 degrees hotter than it normally is in Chicago, but we had some pretty insane views and even though I had to blast my A/C all day long, my family was over the moon for some sun and above 30 degree temps.


Once we got ready for the day, we opened up some champagne and the six of us got to hang out for a few hours on our own.




Once the turkey was on the grill, our guests started to arrive and everything went off without a hitch. The appetizers were filling enough, we had plenty of wine and cocktails, people brought their own serving spoons....the silly little things I worried about never happened anyway, and all of a sudden it was time for dinner.

My "holiday crack dip" was the big hit pre-dinner. It's so damn good that I only allow myself to make it once a year.

Joel's turkey turned out incredibly and all of the food warmed up without over cooking, and dinner was truly amazing. 


Going around the table sharing what we were all thankful for didn't leave a dry eye, and most of all we were all reminded how lucky we are to have such an amazing, tight knit family near and far. 

Thanksgiving was such a success and I would be remiss not to mention how much of that was due to Joel. He made sure everyone was happy and comfortable, was over the top helpful, and stayed up late to make sure I didn't have to wake up to a disaster. He let me sit after dinner and just enjoy while he took care of the dishes, and kept things flowing so well. I am so, so thankful for him as my husband.

And, because there is no rest for the wicked, our party continued all weekend long.  Friday morning, bright and early, we kept the bender going and drove into Santa Barbara for a day trip.

We got up there in time for lunch which meant a trip to our favorite spot in Santa Barbara, Metropulous, for deli sandwiches outside.


After lunch we walked the water and the harbor and then landed at a tasting room for a glass of well deserved champagne. 



After fueling up, we hit State street for some Black Friday shopping. Everyone had a little success and before driving home we stopped at another tasting room on our way out, Carr Winery. 

We walked over to sushi once got home and everyone pretty much crashed by 10.

Saturday was my mom's birthday, so after brunch with the six of us, my family spent a few hours relaxing at the pool. 

Joel's parents were in San Diego for Thanksgiving, so his brother and sister-in-law drove them up to LA for the day and once they arrived, we all met my family back at their hotel for a light lunch and visit with Sulley. 

We went back to our house with the Shields fam for a little more visiting with them before Corie and Andrew got back on the road to head home. It was a short visit with them, but I'll take as many doses of that sweet boy as I can!


For dinner on Saturday, my family and Joel's parents all had dinner together in Westwood - which was a fun way to celebrate my mom's birthday. We were able to sit outside near the fireplace and dinner couldn't have been more fun.

Put another note in my thankful list for the fact that my family and Joel's family get along so well. It makes everything so much easier for Joel and I, it is a rare thing for two families to click so well, so Joel and I know that we are really, really lucky. 

My sisters left on Sunday and a storm rolled into LA so the four of us relaxed most of the afternoon. We ended up having a Sunday Night Dinner at my cousin Cole's which was the perfect way to cap off the weekend. 

It was hard to say goodbye to my parents on Monday morning, but in just four weeks we will all be together again in Mexico. 

It's hard for me to not live a drive away from my family, but we're starting to really figure out that as long as we all get on a plane as often as we can, the quality of time might even be better than the quantity.