Saturday, December 15, 2018

Champagne & Whiskey Ugly Sweater Party

So, going back a week ago (because that's what we do here now), we had a Champagne & Whiskey Ugly Sweater Party! Because why have one party theme when you can have two?!

We've done two wine parties and I just felt a calling (from all the stores' cute Christmas party decorations) for a more festive version. I adore champagne and a certain subsection of our guests have always turned our wine parties into whiskey parties anyway, so champagne and whiskey it became! And who doesn't love an opportunity to wear something ridiculous? I told myself I'd wear my faux bow dress that I wore to Disney last year ($12 on Amazon!), but then of course took myself immediately to Ross and found this gem instead. It's the only A-line dress to ever look good on me and there's a faux-fur faux-shrug! For less than $20! Who could resist?

(not me)

I starting planning the party, selecting the date most available to my mama friends, and then remembered to invite James. He was game, but apparently forgot about the Ugly Sweater part until I texted him a few suggestions from Marshall's five days before the event, to which he responded, "wait, why am I wearing these?" But then the day after I bought it he wore his sweater to a non-profit Board meeting! He's the president and I've never even seen him wear a sweater and he wore his jolly shark! I wondered if this was my Christmas present.

He rocked it. Don't you just feel like his shark wants you to have the happiest of Christmases? I do.

In other preparation, I used the party as an excuse to decorate the hall bathroom. Also known as the girls' bathroom, it's the one used by guests and it had never been decorated for Christmas before. I didn't want to change the bright blue shower curtain, so I went with bright and fun holiday decorations that were very different from the rest of the house.

So fun. The girls love it.

Normally there's a collage of hilarious and adorable potty training and baby bath time pictures in the corner, so I made a Christmas baby collage and I LOVE it.

Poor Cora. Seeing Santa is the worst.


In other prep, I bought a giant thing of Fireball whiskey, many champagnes, prizes for the best dressed winners, sparkly and coordinated tableware, a set of 12 champagne glasses (you can get a dozen at Bed Bath & Beyond for $8, which is about the same as the crappy plastic ones that tip over all the time), maraschino cherries I started soaking in the Fireball on Wednesday, Santa socks, and a sparkly Christmas tree headband. Just the necessities.


Oh, and a friend to come over and curl my hair the night before while our kids watched Christmas movies and we drank wine.

(And Claire's hair. She was delighted. Then it re-straightened immediately because her hair is not mine.)

On the day of, we went to Claire's final volleyball game and awards ceremony lunch, and then we did just a little bit of prep. Like moving all our furniture into the sunroom to make a Whiskey Lounge

and borrowing (and decorating!) a friend's cocktail table

and setting up a voting station

and adding a table for all the beverages and accessories.

along with an extra trash can and a whole bunch of ice. The usual.

It was my friend Sarah's 40th birthday the next day, so I'd been texting with her husband about having a cake for her (if they wanted to piggyback on our party- and they did!), and he pulled through with the most giant of 40th birthday cakes, appetizers from her favorite restaurant, and delicious rosé champagne (because we are the Rosé Mamas in our text thread).

And then Sarah used her new birthday Cricut machine to make party favors for everyone- wine glasses for the Mamas and whiskey glasses for the men! It was perfect!

Just like my curls! Because I drove over to my friend's house so she could make them for me again... (And so I could drop off my middle child to hang out with her kids and sitter for the night.)

Everyone took to the spirit of the gathering and brought their finest, ugliest sweaters and tastiest snacks and beverages.

Killing it.

So much food.

It was so fun.

Landon spent the night at a friend's (one of our other party guests), as did Claire, but Cora could sleep through the apocalypse so we just put her to bed in her room as usual. Except the party started 1 hour before her bedtime, so we let her watch a movie in the TV room until 8. She only came out once, to check out the snack situation, and really, who can blame her? James gave her a nice tour before tucking her in bed.

The voting for best dressed male and female was also taken seriously, as it should be.

I announced the results, after sorting the voting slips because some people can't read after a glass or two of champiskey...

But soon we had our top 3 ladies! First was the birthday girl on the left and second was my friend in the middle who made hers out of a Christmas tree skirt! I was third and felt honored to be included.

The men also had a strong showing. Here in the left-to-right order of third, first, and second. Pretend it's a podium.

Everyone's a winner on the inside though.

Except me when I tried to play the velcro ball game on my friend K's sweater.

I lost quite decisively. Against myself.

Then there was birthday cake!

And more chatter.

I looked very skeptical.

And I took my traditional 11 p.m. selfie with my friend B. I couldn't quite get my Christmas tree hat to fit.

It was super fun and we're doing it again even bigger next year. I'll pretend for now I'm going to re-wear my dress but we all know I'll be looking for a new one.

Cora woke up Sunday morning and then woke us up because she didn't know how to turn the TV on. Big kids are really SO useful to have around. Then she asked for cake for breakfast, and since she had to miss the whole party and didn't get a sleepover with a friend, that seemed totally reasonable. Plus, I didn't have to make it. That was enough of a reason.

I too ate cake, then cleaned the kitchen, and then taught barre. And then our next crazy December week kicked off with 7:30 a.m. Spelling Bee, Battle of the Books, and/or News Crew meetings and practices for alternating big kids every day, all the after school activities, busy work schedules, a doctor's appointment, a Favorite Things party, and the Spelling Bee! And then today I baked the traditional sugar cookies and watched Landon's championship climbing competition. But we'll get to that later. For now, I'm sharing my new favorite appetizer for any party. (Or none. I ate a whole bunch today by myself for lunch between sugar cookie steps.)

Pesto Goat Cheese Appetizer

~ Goat cheese (the log you can get from Trader Joe's or in a 2-pack from Costco)
~ 1/4 cup pesto (homemade or the magically delicious Kirkland one from Costco that is the reason I'll never make pesto again)
~ 1 cup small diced tomatoes (you can dice fresh, or I used a can of petite decided tomatoes after draining most of the juice and it was perfect and so easy and I don't normally like canned tomatoes)
~ Kalamata olives, pitted (a handful, up to a 1/4 cup if you love them like I do)

1. Partially drain diced tomatoes and place in the bottom of a baking dish (I used a small ceramic casserole dish; you could also use a pie plate)
2. Place goat cheese in center over tomatoes.
3. Top with pesto.
4. Sprinkle olives around the sides.
5. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until it's warm and melty and amazing.
6. Eat with bread (toasted slices are amazing) or pita chips or crackers.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things... (also, Stitch Fix!)

(We had our Champagne & Whiskey Ugly Sweater Party this past weekend and it was everything I hoped it would be. I forgot to upload the pictures until today though so we're skipping ahead in this post and will go backwards in the next one. Then we'll go backwards even further to finish out Costa Rica and then maybe we'll live in the present? I have to admit I'm enjoying playing with the timeline...)

party preview

And so, jumping forward three days to a party on this past Tuesday night! Every year my friend Steffany hosts a Favorite Things party and it is truly one of my favorite things!

Wait first, because now the song is in my head- do you follow Randy Rainbow? I adore him and this parody on Julie Andrew's Favorite Things from The Sound of Music is GLORIOUS. (Trigger warning: if you think Donald Trump has any morals, intelligence, or integrity whatsoever and/or you think he's doing great things for the country, you... will not like this song.)

Anyway, back to the party- you bring two identical gifts, worth about $20-25 each, of something you just adore. Maybe it's a few small things, maybe it's one bigger item, but it's one of those things in the back of my mind all year- what will be my favorite thing this year? Once at the party, you draw two names. These are the people getting your gift, and you get to explain what they're getting and why. It's always a lovely combination of sweet and meaningful and practical and indulgent. And there's delicious food and beverages and a large gathering of my favorite people.

We're all moms. We're all the shoppers for all the people in our lives and generally the ones giving lists to others of what to give us. Which is fine - I LOVE buying gifts for other people and I'm happy to tell you things I want! But there's something especially special about getting two total surprise gifts, lovingly picked out by your favorite people.

This year my favorite things (the gifts I gave to others) were three:

(1) Anker 6-item charger. I LOVE this thing. We couldn't travel as a family of five without losing plugs or devices without one. One plug, 6 items, one thing to grab when you leave a hotel room or airport chair. When we're home, it lives in my room and it's where I keep Landon's's iPod touch, all the kids' kindles, and my own phone and kindle. That way I know where the kids' electronics are when they shouldn't be touching them anyway (the kindles are only allowed on vacations and road trips; we're still genuinely trying to be a very low electronic use family), and it's all neatly stacked in one spot.

(2) Super fuzzy furry socks that magically don't shed onto my feet or make them sweat. (I'm wearing a pair right now)

(3) Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe's. Forever the greatest of store-bought treats.

And I got a magical new Woodwick Fireside candle that smells amazing and snaps and crackles while it burns like a real fire (I love it), the greatest cracker seasoning mix of all time (and the special 2 gallon Ziploc bag you need to make the recipe), and Burt's Bees chapstick from one friend (love it all!), and awesome Blenders sunglasses (her fave!) from another friend. It's so fun.

Other random favorite things I've bought recently:

This necklace. My grandparents always send money for Christmas, which is so sweet and generous, and I treated myself to this beautiful necklace with my piece of it. I've been eyeing it for months; it sold out once and I was devastated, so when it popped back up I knew I had to grab it.

And then I opened it up and wore it immediately. It reminds me a bit of RBG's dissent collar.

Next up, the lipstick I discovered at my Women's Global Summit Conference. It's Beauty by Pop Sugar and I LOVE IT. I met the marketing director at the conference and told her I had a blog so she sent me a few free samples.

Little did she know, I'd already bought the Be Racy Liquid Velvet lipstick I'm wearing in "Adult-ish" in this picture because I just loved it that much, but now I have two! Color! I'm embracing it!

It's not sticky and it lasts as long as any lipstick I've found. The tinted lip balm is also awesome (I love Daydreamer, a sheer plum) that is silky and moisturizing and you can layer it to deepen the color (or not). I really really like it.

Next, Ugly Sweater Wine Bottle Covers! These are just adorable. I had prizes for the winners of our Ugly Sweater contest at the party and the female best dressed winner got a bottle of my favorite wine with one of these sweaters (the one not pictured, but you'll see it in the future party post).

Are they not the cutest?! And 3 for $10 on Amazon! Perfect for the wine gift you know you want to give this year.

And finally, not a gift I bought, but definitely one of my favorite things I've received so far this year.

This super sweet note from a student in my TCU barre class I teach every Tuesday and Thursday evening on my way home from work while the kids are at swimming. I have loved it so much this year. The classes have been so full and high-energy and it makes me work out at a time of day when I have the time and ability (all 3 kids at swimming!) but not necessarily the motivation (couch/wine/empty house waiting for me!). Plus we got huge discounts for the TCU summer camps for the kids and James gets a spouse membership to the rec center for only $10/month. It's been the best side hustle ever.

But back to the note- it was my first ever teacher's gift and her kind words and thoughtful gesture completely made my day. It reminded me how incredibly important teaching barre is to me. Those 3 hours a week I spend laughing, sweating, and yelling out the count to my students are MINE. My joy, my outlet, my selfish thing I do that has nothing to do with my family. It is something I never imagined I'd do, much less teach, but I love the high I get from each class and the relationships and friendships I've formed with my students along the way. Barre was the first thing that made my new town feel small and it continues to impact my life in so many wonderful ways.

Mostly though, in this post about buying and giving things, her note was a reminder that the best gift can sometimes just be your words. I know she felt a little awkward at the moment of handing it over to me, but it meant so much and it will be in my memory box forever as a reminder of the importance of recognizing those who bring us joy, how something small can have such an impact (I cried), and that I want to raise children who will one day write a note just like that.

I also love these leggings and my 25% instructor discount at Lululemon

And finally- on to my latest Stitch Fix box, which actually arrived the day we got back from Costa Rica but which I totally skipped blogging about. Here we go!

Stitch Fix, Round 2, Fix 2

Overall, I have to admit I was disappointed. I noted specifically in my profile that I'd bought a bunch of solid color tops and bottoms and was looking forward to getting some seasonal patterned shirts and skirts, vests, and other fun things to mix it up at work and on weekends. And then I got this. Pretty much all solid colors and fairly boring at that.

Item 1: Superfoxx Anaise Button Detail Ponte Knit Dress (Navy, Size Small) $54.

Boring, too tight, looked cheap, and the metal buttons were cold. Plus navy is one of my favorite colors and I own at least three dresses with navy, not that Stitch Fix knew that.


Item 2: Liverpool- Jacqueline Skinny Pant (Dark Purple, Size 2) $78

I didn't really need these, but they fit perfectly, are actually long enough, and are so comfortable that I couldn't help it. I feel like I'm encouraging more solid color selections in the future, but I've worn these pants 2-3x/week since I got them.


Item 3: Stella & Ruby Shai Stone Collar Necklace $38

This was pretty. I forgot to take a picture of it, but I did like it, just not enough to keep.


Item 4: Eight 18 Francie Back Detail Pullover (Black, Size Small) $44

Too tight, too short, too not able to wear it to work. (Also I own three other striped tops because stripes are my favorite.)


Item 5: 41 Hawthorn - Corinth Wool Elbow Patch Blazer (Black, Size Small) $78

This is where Stitch Fix gets to me. I never ever buy wardrobe staples like this nice black blazer- I just don't think of it, the inexpensive stores I usually shop at don't have great ones, and I'm drawn like a magpie to patterns and dresses. But I love this blazer. It's beautiful, it's breathable but substantial, and it hangs and fit perfectly. It has little grey patches on the elbows. I love it.


So, even though I was generally disappointed with my lack of flannel and fun patterns, AND I sent back 3/5 of the items, I LOVE the two items I kept and have worn them more than anything else I've bought this season. So here I am, totally going to do this again. I'll keep you posted.

(Note: the Stitch Fix links have referral codes; if you sign up, you get a credit and so do I!)