7th House on the Left

CHRISTMAS 2012

posted by Ashley  /  15 Comments

We hope everyone had a great week of Christmas fun and awesomeness! This was the first time Greg’s been off work for the entire week of Christmas since we got married, so we had a chance to take some time off and enjoy spending time with our family. Since we took some time off, we have some catching up to do in the post department (including the recipes from our “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” brunch and our monthly installment of His + Her Favorite Things). Be on the look out for a few extra posts in addition to our normal Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule over the next few days. We have a kitchen update to kick off the new year’s house-related posts later this week, but today, we thought we’d do a short post a little more on the “life” side of things with a rundown of our “Christmas break”.

Christmas Tree / Christmas 2012 / 7th House on the Left

FAMILY TOGETHERNESS // My mom and brother flew in from LA just in time for Christmas and got to stay for a little over a week. I talked more about our current crazy family living arrangement in this post. It was so, so nice to have them home, even for just a little while. To make things even better, my grandparents came up from Florida. Christmas wouldn’t have been the same without them, so, needless to say, we’re all so glad they were home for Christmas.

Packer & Bentley / Christmas 2012 / 7th House on the Left

Along with my mom and Abram (my brother), came Packer, Abram’s dog. He’s been living the good life in LA, too, and we’ve missed him so much – especially Bentley. Like usual, they played pretty much nonstop – I was lucky to be able to get this quick Instagram photo of the two of them! You can always tell when Packer is in town because Bentley sleeps like a rock pebble at night. They literally play together all day long. We love it.

FOOD & FUN // While I was in AC Moore a few weeks ago, I was waiting in the checkout line and realized I was standing next to a huge display of gingerbread house kits. I quickly looked away and said to myself, “No, Ash. You don’t need a gingerbread house kit.” About fifteen seconds later, my inner kid got the best of me and in my cart it went.

Gingerbread House / Christmas 2012 / 7th House on the Left

I bought some extra red and green gumdrops to go with the kit, and we happened to have some extra chocolate cookie icing (used for the “mulch” on the side of the house and the sidewalk) and candy canes (for the “trim” and the “planked front door”) from our brunch. My favorite “feature” is the Golden Graham shingles on the roof. I had way too much fun with this.

MY CRAZY AWESOME HUSBAND // I’m totally going to brag on Greg a bit, okay? So… with the blog, our ever-overflowing email inbox, finishing up graphic design projects, cooking, last minute shopping and so on, my week leading up to Christmas was rather busy and a bit stressful at times. Fast forward to Christmas Eve morning… I woke up to perfection.

Christmas Eve Perfection / Christmas 2012 / 7th House on the Left

He later said, “If I knew you were going to Instagram that, I would have used better handwriting.” haha! When I first woke up, I noticed the lights on the tree down the hallway were still on. I thought that was odd because they normally go off around 1 am. The more I woke up, the more things I noticed… like Christmas music coming from the living room and… the best smell ever… cleaning supplies. Little did I know that Greg had stayed up until 4:00am the night before and formulated my perfect, stress-free Christmas Eve. I woke up to a completely clean, spotless house, every piece of laundry washed, folded and put away, all of the dishes that were in the dishwasher the night before, washed and put away, Christmas lights and Christmas music on, presents for his family lined up by the back door for ready to head to their house later that night, the outfit I was planning on wearing that day laid out on the dresser, and the ingredients I needed to make the green bean casserole and corn casserole all laid out in the kitchen and ready to go – with the recipes! Oh, and he even had my toothbrush and tooth paste laying out next to the sink! Seriously, it was the most thoughtful, sweetest Christmas present anyone could have ever given me. Yes, he’s definitely up for husband of the year. Best. Christmas. Eve. Ever.

WHAT SANTA BROUGHT //  “Santa” brought Bentley a stocking filled with toys and treats. Although, one of the toys in particular didn’t last the day…

Snowman Down / Christmas 2012 / 7th House on the Left

Yeah, he’s lacking a carrot nose and hat. We also got Bentley a “stuffless” raccoon (from Target) that we call Rocky. It’s now one of his new favorite toys. Bentley bought Packer a matching bunny and he looooooves it. Even now that he’s back in LA, he babies it constantly and carries it with him from room to room. Here’s a picture Abram sent me last night…

Packer the Cockapoo / Christmas 2012 / 7th House on the Left

As if cleaning the entire house and making my Christmas Eve absolutely perfect wasn’t enough, Greg also hit a home run in the gift department. He gave me an awesome Tory Burch key pouch (which is perfect for keeping my cards, license and keys all in one place) and the Kate Spade ear buds that I mentioned in this Favorite Things post a while back.

Tory Burch / Christmas 2012 / 7th House on the Left

He also filled my stocking with a bunch of my favorite goodies like Essie nail polish, Smashbox lipgloss, Lindt truffles (my favorite), and a gold Marc Jacobs pouch from the Neiman Marcus Target line (which is 50% off right now!). That boy was a really awesome shopper this year! I would have loved to see Greg in Ulta when he bought the lip gloss… priceless.

I gave Greg a Dremel (something that’s been on his wish list for a while now!) and a new sound card for his computer. Oh, and I totally shocked him by giving him a Companion Cube for his office. I’ve never really been into video games (aside from Mario Kart Wii and my very brief stint in World of Warcraft – yes, it’s true) and I’m pretty sure he thinks I totally zone him out when he talks about them. So, this gift totally took him by surprise.

I filled his stocking with a bunch of fun geeky stuff including astronaut ice cream, recycled vinyl record guitar picks, and Pac Man candy, cable clips… oh, and a Dr Who Sonic Screwdriver toothbrush (I had to!).

Eldridge Light / 7th House on the Left

My parents totally floored us by surprising us with the dining room light fixture we’ve had our eye on for the dining room. I talk through all of our decorating ideas with my mom (she’s the best sounding board ever) so she was well aware of our love for this light fixture. We have some other changes we want to make to the dining room and we need to change the placement of the current light before we can hang it, but we’re so totally excited to tackle the dining room – finally!

5TH ANNIVERSARY // A few days after Christmas, on the 29th, Greg and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. FIVE years. I think I’ve said it about a million times in the last 48 hours, but time has flown by. Seriously, I can’t get over it. We celebrated with a trip to the “outdoor invisible church” where our ceremony was (officially known as Pole Green Historical Church) then downtown to the James Center (where we had our reception) to take in the lights and dinner.

Historical Pole Green Church / 7th House on the Left

Since our wedding, they’ve added lights and, this year, even decorated it for Christmas (which is how it is in the Instagram photo above).  A few of you asked on Facebook and Instagram if we could post more wedding photos. The short answer: Maybe. There’s a long story in there but here’s the condensed version: We hired a photographer that had a very awesome portfolio, and we met with him in his really nice home studio. He seemed like a great fit. Fast forward after our wedding and about a year later, we finally got the proofs only to discover that the photos looked like they were taken by a 10-year-old using a disposable camera. Seriously, the only remotely “good” photo of Greg and me was one taken at the reception… and my eyes were closed. We were, and still are, completely heartsick. Another year later, he finally gave us an envelope of negatives. My plan is to have the negatives transferred into digital photos, but I have yet to go through them. I think I keep on putting it off because deep down, I just don’t want to get upset about it all over again. When I do get around to it though (something that is on my grand to-do list for 2013), I’m going to try to edit some myself and see what we come up with. Hopefully at that point, we’ll have a few to share here on the blog.

For our anniversary, “Greg bought me” a cool chunky charm bracelet from Anthropologie– AKA I picked it out, bought it and told him it was his anniversary gift to me, haha. It hasn’t come in yet, but I’ll Instagram a photo when it does. We decided not to do anything “big” for our anniversary this year because we’ll actually be flying to LA at the end of the month for two weeks of relaxation, fun and sun. This will be our first non-Disney World vacation since we’ve been married (is that weird?!). That said, we are going to be at Disneyland for two days, so we’ll still get some Disney magic this trip too.

I guess that about wraps up our Christmas vacation recap. We’ll be back soon with the recipes from our Christmas party and another installment of His + Her Favorite Things!

PS All of these photos are from our Instagram feed. If you don’t follow us on Instagram, look us up at 7thHouseBlog.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

posted by Greg & Ashley  /  4 Comments

We’re taking a break from gift-opening, gingerbread house-decorating and hot chocolate drinking to wish you all a very happy holiday! We hope you all are having fun with your family and friends and enjoying some time off after the hustle and bustle of this super busy season. We sure are happy to be kicking back and relaxing for a bit!

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We’ll be back later this week to share more about our Christmas festivities, what Santa brought and a few of our little reindeer’s outtakes (we’re pretty sure he thinks he’s a real reindeer). Until then, may your days be merry and bright!

We’re taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the week before Christmas to share the winter brunch we did this past weekend as our latest Target Inner Circle activity (more on the Target Inner Circle here). They gave us a gift card and unleashed us to create our ideal Christmas get together.

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Greg and I went through a lot of different “party scenarios” in our heads and finally decided on a “Baby It’s Cold Outside” brunch. We ultimately decided to do a brunch rather than an evening party because we thought it would be something different. By this time in the holiday season, almost everyone has had enough of the typical cheese trays, spinach dips and ham, so we thought we would switch it up a little by bringing in some comforting breakfast food. Who doesn’t love breakfast food? Another upside to having a brunch is it didn’t interfere with our friends and family’s party schedules.

As for the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” part, we’re fans of the song (it was on the playlist at our wedding reception), and we thought it would be fun to bring the outdoors in, in a simple rustic way. It didn’t hurt that we have a thing for twigs, berries and faux snow. It makes my heart happy. As a side note, you could really do this sort of party on New Year’s Day or even into January and February. Add a few hearts here and there, and it would be a great Valentine’s Day brunch. So, without further ado, our party…

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For the menu, we wanted good comfort food. Here’s what we put together…

Baby It's Cold Outside / 7th House on the Left

We’re putting together a post with all of the recipes, but for this post, we’re just going to talk about the plating and decorating (my favorite part!). Let’s start with the dining area buffet, which we used as a hot chocolate station…

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

Greg made the chalkboard using a piece of sanded plywood and a few pieces of simple 2″ x 1/4″ trim. He cut the trim pieces to size, stained them with a mixture of Minwax’s Special Walnut and Dark Walnut, then “Liquid Nails-ed” them straight to the chalkboard-painted plywood. Easy peasy! After the paint was cured, it was time to chalk it up. To get the chalk good and dark, I dipped the chalk in water before using it on the board (this has been one of my favorite tricks over the past few months when I write on the laundry room memo board).

On the table, we have everything you need to make the perfect cup of classic hot chocolate…

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

These carafes come in a set of two. Each has a different colored button on the top that’s typically one for decaf and one for regular. But since we were doing hot chocolate, we used one for Archer Farm’s Milk Chocolate Hot Chocolate and the other for their Sea Salt Caramel Hot Chocolate (my favorite!).

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

We also had a jar of mini marshmallows, jumbo marshmallows (these were a big hit!) and a tumbler filled with candy canes to use at stirrers for a hint of peppermint.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

The trees on either side of the buffet are probably our favorite additions to our Christmas decorations (you can find them here). They are very snowy and were perfect for our “Baby It’s Cold Outside” theme. They also have little white lights (also covered in snow) that look so pretty lit up at night.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch / 7th House on the Left

Over on the dining table was the spread of our yummy comfort food. In the center was a large hurricane filled with faux snow, and “icy” and berry limbs. This added a lot of needed height and tied in with the whole “cold outside” theme.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

We decided to nix a table cloth and scatter white snowflakes here and there. The snowflakes are actually ornaments; we just cut off the string. I like how they really stood out against the dark brown table.

Now, the food…

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

Our family always insists that my mom make her famous sausage balls every year, so these were an absolute must. They are so, so good – especially with some honey mustard to dip them in. To dress them up a little, we added a cake pop stick (they can be found in the waffle maker section at Target) and a bit of paper tape wrapped around the top. The Target knit sweater tray helps subtly tie in the with the “cold” part of the theme.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

For something a little on the lighter side, I filled some brown paper cups with blackberry preserves on the bottom, Greek yogurt, a fresh blackberry on top and a small wooden spoon.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

Another family favorite around here is what we call “Breakfast Casserole”. We normally bake it in a large 13×9 casserole dish, but for the brunch, we thought it would be fun to bake mini versions in small ramekins. These tiny ramekins are so stinking cute. I think they can give pretty much any food an instant cute factor.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

We had two of these domed cake plates, one filled with Christmas donuts and the other with pumpkin and blueberry muffins. Tip: If you go to your local Dunkin’ Donuts, you can special order their Christmas donuts with whatever flavor/icing combination you want and pick them up the next morning. I absolutely love the simple modern design of the cake plate, and am already thinking of other yummy things that will look good in them.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

You can’t have a brunch with comfort food in Virginia without cheese grits. To put a new spin on them, we put the grits in small juice glasses (similar to these) and topped them with some cheddar cheese (of course!). We put them on a red tray so the white grits would really pop.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

This was probably one of my favorite things to prep! We lined up a bunch of “bitty bite” glasses on a large square platter and filled them with organic maple syrup. Then, we put a French toast stick in each glass. I think it’s a fun, modern take on French toast, and the whole presentation came out looking even cuter than I expected, haha.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

Fruit skewers are another favorite thing of ours around here. We used these cute little snowflake picks to make mini versions. Oh, and the fruit dip. This is seriously this best fruit dip in the world – and so easy to make! Like I said earlier, we’re doing a separate post with all of the recipes but this one it too easy not to share now. All it is is a package of cream cheese and a small container of marshmallow fluff. That’s it. Seriously, it’s so good!

Ready for some cuteness…?

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

These are kind of like our Christmas version of the Little Gobblers we do for Thanksgiving. They are so very easy to assemble, and this red tray is my new favorite thing to display them on. The white powdered doughnuts really stand out and make for a really Christmas-y look.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

Another southern favorite is ham biscuits. My family has them at pretty much every gathering around this time of year. They are so, so good! The white knit tray was the perfect size for these and a nice subtle nod to the “cold” aspect of our theme.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

Over on the sofa table, we set up orange juice, milk and napkins (we had the plates, forks and some soda options over in the kitchen).

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

For the orange juice and milk glasses, we used Starbucks Frappuccino bottles (they look JUST like the ones you buy at the specialty party boutiques and on Etsy) and sat them down in some snow. Yep, real snow! Okay… it’s really  so rather than being made by the clouds way up high, we used a cute little snow cone maker. It was a lot of fun to use and everyone really got a kick out of our snowy drink station.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch /  7th House on the Left

To add some color, we went with red, blue, green and cream napkins (in Target’s Threshold collection). I rolled them up and tied them with a brown polka dot ribbon and two little jingle bells. I put them all in a metal tub I found in the “Dollar Spot” at Target. The dollar spot gets me every time, haha!

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch / 7th House on the Left

To add some more “outside” elements to the decor, we put this awesome twig runner (also from the Threshold line) on the sofa table.

Every good party ends with a memorable favor. Instead of just giving everyone something to take home with them, we thought it would be fun to do something with a little DIY twist.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch / 7th House on the Left

We set out a tray of white porcelain coffee mugs along with a couple of tumblers filled with red, green, black and metallic Sharpies. Throughout the morning, people decorated their mugs and wrote their name on the bottom of the mug so I’d know who each one belonged to.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch / 7th House on the Left

Everyone had a lot of fun decorating their mugs and, the kraft paper came in handy for people to try out their design before they drew it on the mug.

Baby It's Cold Outside Brunch / 7th House on the Left

While everyone was mingling and eating, I popped the pan of decorated mugs in the oven on 350 for about 20 minutes. This process “bakes on” the Sharpie and makes the designs permanent. Once they cooled, which only took a few minutes, I slipped into the laundry room and quickly put each mug in a cellophane bag, added a few packets of hot chocolate, and tied it with a brown ribbon, name tag and a tiny mitten ornament. This was a big hit with everyone, and I definitely want to come up with another “interactive favor” like this for next year’s party.

We really had a blast putting all of this together, and we’re really glad our family and friends enjoyed themselves. Are you guys planning anything this weekend, or are you all partied out? We’re planning on just relaxing and taking some good old fashioned time off with our family this weekend, intermingled with a few trips of last-minute shopping, of course! Please be safe and have a great weekend!

Update: Check out all of our recipes in this post!