Some New Ballet Flats!

A few weeks ago my beloved black ballet flats finally were no longer appropriate to wear out in public  I actually hate buying shoes like these because I need them to be comfortable, and it's always hard for me to tell if shoes are going to work or not until I've walked in them awhile.  Well, when I was doing a little shopping at Target I checked out their selection.  I've had mixed-luck with Target's shoes, so I didn't really expect that I would be able to find anything.  However, I tried these shoes on and I was super impressed by the support.  They were also on sale for less than 20 dollars, so I think they will be a great shoe to wear to work.
I also have really been wanting something with a little bit of sparkle, so I tried these shoes on and I was pleasantly surprised. They are comfy and only $15!
Have you been doing any shoe shopping lately?  Which shoes do you find most comfy?

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, dear friends!  After lots of shopping and planning, I think we're finally ready for Christmas!  I have presents for our families and I am now just ready to spend lots of quality time with everyone, especially my sister.  The husband will be joining me Christmas Eve, so I think we are all set (and here's hoping this post doesn't jinx me).  I hope that all of you have a lovely holiday.

Five for Friday: Christmas Preparations!

This week has been kind of difficult for me, so I'm definitely glad to be welcoming the weekend and Christmas break!  Here are a few things that I've enjoyed preparing for the festivities.

1. A wreath! I'd wanted one for awhile, and on Wednesday night, I finally took the plunge at Target.  The husband made my week when he sent me an email to tell me he thought it looked nice (he'd been up since past 2:00am in the morning doing work, so the fact that he took the time to tell me the next morning in his sleep-deprived state made my heart so happy). This isn't the best picture, but I'm just happy it's hanging on our door.

2. Cookies for the co-workers- As you know, I made jam for the people I work with in my department, but for others who I routinely work with, I made up 12 little packs of cookies.  I cheated and did some slice and bake, because there are seriously only so many hours in the day.

3. The Crate and Barrel Christmas sale- Crate and Barrel has lots of Christmas stuff marked down, so I picked up these tea towels for my mom. I also bought a few little ornaments, but I can't share those because my sister and husband sometimes look at my blog.
4. I really like these little hand towels that I picked up last year on massive clearance from Target (I think they both cost less than a dollar total).  They make our kitchen look so cheerful.
5. One of my co-workers gave me these sweet little plates, and I can't wait to use them.  All of the thoughtful treats really make me feel really thankful that I get to work with such kind people.
I hope that you all have a lovely weekend!

What's Cooking Wednesday: Cheesy Butternut Squash Cavatappi Bake

This is my new favorite fall dish this season.  It's easy to make and not too expensive, since it's pasta.  It's also my first time cooking with butternut squash, and it won't be my last!

A funny story about this recipe. Yesterday after work I decided to pick up the ingredients to make this for a potluck, and I couldn't remember an ingredient.  I called my sister and asked her to look on my blog (I don't have a smart phone), and she couldn't find it.  After I got home, I realized that I had started a post about this recipe but never finished it! So here's the recipe so at least I can remember all of the ingredients!

  • 3  cups  peeled and cubed butternut squash
  • 8  ounces  dried cavatappi or other elbow macaroni
  • 1  tablespoon  butter
  • 8  ounces  cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3  green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1  cup  fat-free milk
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground black pepper
  • 6  ounces  fontina cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2  slices  reduced-sodium bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional) (I used veggie bacon and it really adds a lot of flavor; I definitely recommend adding something!)
  •  Thinly sliced green onions (optional)
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart rectangular baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
    2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl combine squash and 2 Tbsp. water; cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 4 minutes; stir. Microwave, covered, about 4 minutes more or until squash is tender. Carefully remove plastic wrap. Mash squash; set aside.
    3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In a medium saucepan heat butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and green onions. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add milk, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in squash. Add pasta. Gently fold to combine.
    4. Transfer half of the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Add remaining pasta and cheese. Top with bacon, if desired. Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Top with additional green onions, If desired.
      *Recipe taken from BHG. I'm a huge fan of their magazine for home decorating ideas, but there recipes are great too!

Why it may seem that I do half my Christmas shopping at the grocery store

My family is a little bit funny about Christmas gifts in the aspect that as kids my parents would sometimes wrap up our favorite foods (in addition to toys) and give them to us.  I've learned since then from the husband that it's a little bit odd, but for some reason I keep wanting to do it.  In my humble opinion, food gifts are great because they are usually tasty and they don't add clutter.  This year, it may be a little worse than usual, which might be why the cashier at Trader Joe's made a comment that I was getting all my Christmas shopping done there.  A reasonable assumption, because these were a few things in my basket:

Ginger cookies for my mom.
Some caramels for my sister (I know she reads my blog, but I think that they will be just as exciting once she actually gets them).
I also saw these macarons in the freezer section and thought I'd try them out.  They are a little smaller than the ones I have had before, but there are no complaints from me.  For one of my friend's birthday in January, I wanted to give her some macarons to go along with her Paris inspired gift, so once I tested a box with the husband, I picked up a few more.  For five dollars, this is definitely worth it.
Of course, I also always get the husband beef jerky.
In continuing with the food gifts, I'm giving my co-workers little jars of jam I made as a holiday treat.
Do you ever give food gifts?  They appeal to me because they are so practical and usually enjoyed rather quickly!

What's Cooking Wednesday: Cranberry Mousse

With the holidays in full swing, I thought I'd share a really easy recipe, cranberry mousse.  My mom makes this for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I find it rather tasty.  Since I did the desserts for Thanksgiving this year, I made it and put it in these little cups (which made me ridiculously happy).  In case you feel like making it for a holiday party, here's the recipe!

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (6 oz.) strawberry Jello
1 c. water
1 can whole cranberry sauce
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 c. sour cream 
1/2 c. pecans
whipped cream
Drain pineapple. Add juice to water and gelatin, bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients and refrigerate. It's really easy, but I promise that it's yummy and I think it's really pretty!

Feeling Festive!

 On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we put up our little tree.  I also spent the afternoon happily wrapping up some presents.
I love putting ornaments out.  We have these on our coffee table (I picked them up from Michaels a few years ago). It's funny how they really do put you in the holiday spirit.
I also have these  on display.  I've thought about getting rid of them because I know that the color is pretty loud, but for some reason I just can't bear to do so.  I also think the penguin tin is so cute.
We have our nativity on our end table.  It's not very elaborate, but I think it's sweet.

After my work party on Friday, I ended up being able to bring one of the centerpieces home.  Even though it's a bit large and ridiculous, it's beautiful and makes me happy.
Are you doing any decorating for the holidays?  I still have more presents to wrap (and buy) and Christmas cards to send out, but mostly I'm just trying to savor the season.

Weekend Recap: Getting into the Christmas Spirit!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend!  On Sunday afternoon we ventured into the city before any inclement weather, and it was really fun.  I have to admit that I was reluctant to go out because I just wanted to get ready for the week and study for the final I have in my graduate class (I've decided that once you start working it's just really hard to get motivated).  But, we hadn't done anything together all weekend since the husband had to work on Saturday, so to the monuments we went. With our Santa hats (which I also didn't want to wear at first).  Fortunately, the husband takes himself less seriously than I do (and who could resist wearing the pink sparkly hat but for so long?).
See, aren't they fun?
 It was nice to see the city during the snowfall, and we also decided to walk around Georgetown for a little bit, and we picked up some cupcakes for a treat at home!
How was your weekend?  Hopefully everyone is staying safe and warm with all this winter weather.

Five for Friday: Some Gift Ideas for the In-Laws

As I mentioned, I'm in the full pursuit of trying to find a few gifts for family.  For friends and my sister, I find that gifts are relatively easy because we all like similar things. (Well, at least I think we do).  For older family members, and males it's really difficult for me to pick out a gift because I'm pretty darn clueless about what is popular.  For my husband's aunt and grandma, my genius sister recommended perusing Pottery Barn and Talbots, and I think I came away with some good picks. 

First up, I purchased a monogramed wreath holder for my husband's aunt and uncle.  I plan on giving them a fresh wreath too. I ordered this last Sunday and it arrived by Thursday.  I think that's amazingly fast considering it's monogrammed.
For the husband's aunt, I actually ended up buying her some gloves and a cashmere scarf from Talbots. With all the Black Friday sales, they ended up being very reasonably priced.  The great thing about this gift is that if she doesn't like it, she can always return it and get something else since she likes the store. Where she lives is pretty chilly, so I think they might come in handy!


I also ended up purchasing this necklace for the husband's grandma.  Again, the way I figure it is if my choice isn't exactly perfect then maybe they can use the credit towards something they'd love.
My favorite little stocking stuffer though is the jam that I made with my mom a few months ago.  I think it will be fun to have something homemade to give everyone (although I think I need to make more!).
Do you have any good gift ideas that you love to give relatives? I hope everyone has a good weekend!  Tonight is our holiday party (which I'm kind of in charge of and nervous about).  I'll be relieved once it is over!

Christmas Gifts: For the Favorite Aunt

My husband's aunt is one of my favorite people. She's the type of person who hand makes everyone a beautiful and thoughtful Christmas gift, so it makes you want to put a little extra effort into her gift as well.  Here are my ideas for her so far:

Some nice bath products to make her feel pampered:
A sea glass necklace, because she loves the ocean.

And I was thinking about getting her an address embosser. I think this one from Tiny Prints is really pretty.
Of course, the gift ideas are still a work in progress, but that's what I've been thinking about so far!  What do you usually like to get your relatives?  I always love ideas.