I'm not sure that I can come with 5 distinct talking points, and so, in the spirit of Holiday giving, I'm giving myself a break from the rules!
  • Our holiday festivities pick up into high gear tomorrow! We have Andrew and Corie (Joel's brother and sister-in-law) driving up from San Diego for "our" Christmas dinner. We decided to go the non-traditional route and when they get here we are all heading to the grocery store together. Then, it will be a Shields vs. Shields pizza cooking off. After the gingerbread building in my kitchen, I decided that it's actually a lot more fun, for everyone, to get their hands dirty - and our Shields boys love any kind of competition.
  • Monday we are having friends over for a holiday dinner, and then Tuesday and Wednesday are dedicated to just our little family. It will just be Joel and I (and Roscoe) for Christmas Eve and Christmas, and we actually couldn't be more excited. We are going all out on Christmas Eve - fancy champagne, lobster - and then after cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, we are going to just lounge and watch Christmas movies all day. I think it's going to be perfect. Red hunter boots and wreaths
  • Oh, and then on Thursday I leave for a week in Mexico! I packed everything up yesterday so that I didn't have to think about it over the holiday break, so I'm literally ready to go! It will suck to be without Joel there, but I can't wait to have 7 straight days with my family in our favorite place in the world.
  • My diet has been off the wall horrible for the last 2 weeks, and there is no end in sight for these next 2 weeks. This might be the first year in a long time that I actually join the rest of the country in the "Santa Seven". It's been bad, so January will be a really un-fun, hardcore month in our house.
  • I don't want this Christmas season to be over. It's going be too fast and I just can't think to part with our lights and tree anytime soon. And, I'm really going to miss the Christmas music radio station too. 

::: Enjoy the last weekend before Christmas! xo :::
think happy. be happy.


Our Christmas Card

This is our first Christmas card and I couldn't be happy with the way they turned out. We used Minted.com and had a really seamless experience. I think the quality of their cards is one of the best, so I will likely stick with them for years to come.

 I've been loving seeing everyone's years passed Christmas cards - it's crazy to see how many changes occur in just a year or two.

Who knows what next years card will hold but if 2014 is anything like 2013, we should be in for a treat.


Sausage Crack Dip

 My friend Shelby made this dip last Thanksgiving and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. Dips are my weakness, and this one seriously lives up to it's name.

It's not healthy, but it's worth it.

The goods:
1lb of pork sausage, mild
2 packages of light cream cheese
2 cans of Fire Roasted, diced tomatoes with green chilies 
dMuir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies

1. Brown the sausage and cook through
2. Put all of the ingredients in a crock pot on low for 5 hours, mixing every 30 minutes
3. Serve warm with Fritos

This is the perfect holiday dip, you'll thank me.


Holiday Gatherings

On Sunday I had planned to host another ornament and cookie exchange for our group of girlfriends. Out of the 12 of us, only 3 were able to make it since everyone's holiday schedules are just pure insanity. 

It was actually really nice to have a small group. I made some caprese bites, and the most amazing "crack dip" that seriously lived up to its name.

 Since the group was a little more manageable, my friend Kristen brought all of the fixings for us to make our own Gingerbread houses - and she even hand made all of the pieces, which still blows my mind. 

It was really fun to sit at the table with girlfriends, keep our hands busy with our crafts, and catch up over champagne and snacks.

Once our houses were done, we swapped Christmas ornaments, filled bags of cookies and went on our merry way.


Weekend Report

Friday night I met up with Joel and his two co-workers - some of my best buddies-for happy hour and dinner at Pink Taco before seeing The Hunger Games.

We all loved the movie and unanimously thought it was wayyy better than the first one.

On Saturday, after Joel ran and I took a SoulCycle class, I baked like 300 cookies.
We ordered in sushi Saturday night, watched the Santa Claus and got into bed at 10pm. I'm starting to get concerned that we are becoming really, really lame. But, I will say, it's actually sort of my paradise.

On Sunday, I had a few girlfriends over to build gingerbread houses and exchange Christmas cookies. It was such a good excuse to get into the season and celebrate with some of my dearest friends.

I can't believe this is the last week of work until 2014. I have lots of work to get finished, as well as home "work", and planning for Mexcio, so it should be a pretty crazy week.

'Tis the season!


Friday's 5


I've lived in LA for almost 2 years but this week was the first time that I ever made a visit to the Pretty Woman hotel. I met a friend in their bar at 5pm and it was just a magical little spot. It was all decked out for Christmas and as I waited and sipped some champs I literally had the best people watching experience of my entire life. Put it on your list of bars to try if you visit LA.


And on my walk over to the hotel I spotted the Beverly Hills Santa. I'm still getting used to seventy degrees in December, but I guess it isn't all bad.


I'm leaving for Mexico in 2 weeks and I'm desperate for some good beach reads. It's been a while since I've read a fun, easy book. I've got Christmas Bliss on my list, but do you have any other goodies that you've read recently?

I participated in a blogger ornament swap that my girl Christin hosted, and I got paired up with the sweetest girl, Sarah. She sent me this adorable ornament and sweet note, and it will always remind me of this little blog and all of the sweet friends I've made from it.


Tonight we are heading to Mexican with some friends and then we are going to go see The Hunger Games. Saturday will be really low key, and then on Sunday I'm having some girls over for a Christmas party, which I'm really looking forward to. Champagne, gingerbread houses, and girlfriends make for a very good combination.

Do your thing.


Christmas Cookie Exchange

On Sunday I'm hosing a few girlfriends for a little Christmas gathering. I couldn't decide what I wanted to do during the party so we are doing an ornament--exchange/cookie-exchange/build-your-own-gingerbread-theme.
she celebrates any way she can.
An all-in-one shindig, if you will.

I haven't had an excuse to do any Christmas baking, so I'm anxious to try each of these recipes for the party - plus I know Joel's office will enjoy the leftovers.
Peppermint Bark Puppy Chow
Peppermint Sugar Cookie Recipe ~ Soft and Delicious cookies that look like Santa Hats!
Easy and Cute Rudolph Treats - the kids would love these!
Oreo Peppermint Bark | crazyforcrust.com
*All pictures link to their recipe*

What's your go-to for cookie exchanges? 


Weekend Report

Do you feel like December is flying by at record speed? 

It sure seems like it over here.

. I really hope Thanksgiving doesn't fall this close to Christmas again because there is just not enough weekend time to soak in the season.
Either way, we are squeezing every inch of fun out of our time and this weekend was no exception.

My cousin Nick was in town from Chicago and stayed with us. On Friday night, we celebrated another cousin's (Cole) birthday.  Before dinner, we had drinks at The Phoenix, which I loved. It's a really cozy bar in the Mid-City with craft beers and board games. It reminded me a lot of bars you find in Chicago so I think it will make it on our rotation.

After a drink we ventured down the street and had a phenomenal dinner at The Bazaar.

 The cocktails were amazing and the dinner was equally as delicious. It's not a cheap night, but it's worth it (every once in a while). The decor is crazy cool and you move rooms for each course, so it really is above your average restaurant experience. 

On Saturday I tried to work off the 3 French martini's at a brutally tough Soulcycle class and then we met up with Laura and Sean for the Kings game.

 My company owns a suite at the Staples Center, so whenever I'm hosting clients I can get my hands on some extra tickets. It's a major perk of the job, especially when good friends can join in on the fun.,

Sunday, Joel and I went Christmas shopping for like six hours, wrapped presents, tried to finish addressing Christmas cards, made pizza and watched a Christmas movie. 

I have a feeling today is going to be a long day, but my exhaustion is well worth it.
kill them with kindness


Friday's 5

As much as I love being back in Chicago, it is always nice to be back at my house and back to our routine. I missed exercising over Thanksgiving week and I sure could tell during everyone of my workouts this week. Why does 1 off week take 2 good weeks to recover? That is just not fair!

Roscoe's first snow!
 Roscoe loved spending the week at our house and especially loved playing all day with my families dog Haley. I'm trying to convince Joel that we need to get Roscoe a brother or sister, but the only way he would consider it is if I were to "find" a stranded dog on the steets that we had to save.

So, yes, I do drive a few extra miles out of my way searching for lost pups. It can happen.

 I posted this recipe for my meal plan, but it's the easiest soup you could ever make and it's delicious.
It only makes 4 bowls, so if you want leftovers, you will have to double the batch. And, you'll want leftovers.

I have watched a Lifetime or Hallmark Christmas movie everyday this week. I'm recording them all and they're all stupid and adorable - but these have been my favorite....so far

Embarrassing, but truthful.


I'm candle obsessed, but the cheapest and best smelling candle I've found for Christmas can be snagged at Michaels. I have it sitting next to our fake Christmas tree and if you closed your eyes, you would never be able to smell the difference!

Warmest Wishes
We are off to celebrate my cousins 35th birthday tonight and then will be catching the Kings game with my girl Laura and her husband. We need to get our Christmas cards in the mail and finish up shopping, but we should be able to tackle both on Sunday.

Hope you have a great weekend too!


Christmas House Tour

In our condo almost all of our living space is one great room, so I put the majority of Christmas decorations in here.

Come on in...

I like to swap out the bathroom towels with seasonal goodies, and change out all the candles so that it smells as much like Christmas as it looks.

Since Joel and I are alone on Christmas, I'm also trying to add some fun traditions to start this year. I picked up some fun holiday mugs for coffee this month - and I'm hoping to find some decorative platters for festive dining too.

 It's sometimes feels expensive and wasteful to stock up on this type of stuff when the holiday season is so short, but both Joel and I look forward to coming home every night to all of the festive-ness.

 I remember being so excited when my mom pulled out the decorations, so little by little I hope to keep stocking up and building my collection.


Taking off the Turkey

Last week was such a food fest that when I got back to LA on Sunday I felt sluggish, puffy, and gross. Eating at restaurants, not working out, drinking too much and not getting enough sleep are not a good combination ever, but when they're combined for 7 days straight....that's a real problem.

From cutting out carbs before the wedding, I know that they have to be the first thing cut out of my diet in order to get back on track. For our meals this week, this is what's on the docket.

stuffed salmon (bought pre-made) and asparagus

I signed up for 3 SoulCycle classes and plan to get in a few runs as well. We have a busy weekend (ie. food & booze), but hopefully a few weeks of extra tight eating and exercising will get me ready for my next trip - MEXICO!


Thanksgiving in Chicago


I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend! Ours was almost perfect in every way.

When I landed in Chicago we went straight downtown to my visit my cousin Amanda's new condo. My only request was that we had to order some Girodono's deep dish pizza.

Even though it was Monday all my besties came over to catch up and just be together.

Being home is amazing, but it sure is a bitter reminder of how deeply I miss all of these people.

Tuesday and Wednesday I spent most of my time helping my mom set up for Thanksgiving. We hosted 28 people at our house, and I got my first real time expierence of how hard it really is to host a party like that.  

It was hard work, but everything we did turned out really beautifully and the food was amazing - plus all of our pre-work meant that we were able to just enjoy Thanksgiving and not have to be in the kitchen the whole time. 


Joel flew into Chicago late Wednesday night and we somehow made it to my 9th annual (our 5th annual together) Turkey Trot. 

It was 20 degrees and it literally took me 3 hours to thaw out.

 That's also when I start to remember that I sometimes do love living in Los Angeles. 

Soon thereafter the masses started to arrive at our house and Thanksgiving was in full swing. 



We moved some things out of our living room, but we were able to get all 25 of us at a pretty perfect "L" shaped table.



After dinner we played a few rounds of Pictionary before the easel was taken over by a couple of cute kids. 

 I had been so nervous about bringing Roscoe home. I have a big family and tons of little cousins, and Roscoe just isn't used to either! I was so happy and proud of him. He was so gentle with all of the kids, loved all of the attention from our family, and acted like such a good boy. 

On Friday, the parties continued.

For brunch we celebrated my mom's birthday at my cousin's house in Park Ridge.


It had been a long time since we had all the cousins together and basically had to pushed out the doors when it was time to leave each other.


Luckily for us, Joel's brother and sister-in-law live 10 minutes from my cousin's  so we were able to have dinner with them on Friday night.


We don't get nearly enough time with our niece and nephew and so it was really nice to squeeze in some one on one time with them.

And I'm still getting used to and falling in love with hearing Aunt Tess and Uncle Joel.
 Saturday we put up the Christmas tree at home and met up with a group of neighborhood friends.

My mom (and I) love tequila, so for her birthday Joel was able to track down George Clooney's new tequila Casa Migos as a birthday present for her - and it did not disappoint.

I had a really, really hard time leaving my family and friends this time around. There just will never be enough time  to soak them all in but I'm so thankful that in just a quick 3 hour flight I can be with them and it's like no time has ever passed. 

Life is so good.