My family typically does a big [and I mean big] Italian feast for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’re talking eggplant parmesan, lasagna, stuffed artichokes, hot peppers, and meatballs all loaded with my mom’s homemade sauce. Of course we never leave out the traditional American staples of turkey [one deep fried and one oven roasted], cranberry sauce [jarred and homemade, because some people prefer one or the other], stuffing, mashed potatoes, crusty bread, green bean casserole, and on and on and on. What can I say, we’re Italian and eating good food is in our DNA.

With that being said, my family is doing Christmas very different this year. From the venue to the menu, we’re shaking things up. Instead of dinner, we’re opting to do brunch. Everyone seems to be curiously excited about how this will pan out. The ever present pot of simmering sauce will be noticeably absent from the stove, but I trust there will be new tantalizing treats on the table that will have us wondering how we ever did without.

This year I’m making these deeelicious cinnamon buns using a recipe that claims they taste identical to Cinnabons [and they actually do]. Just look at these things [I'm sure that photo above got your tongue wagging]. This was my first stab at making bread [which was the base of the bun], but it was easy enough and besides, I dare you to mess up a recipe that is essentially butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. They were velvety and sweet and the frosting oozed with decadent gooeyness. I also loved how the kitchen smelled like cinnamon ‘n sugar for the rest of the night.

[fresh from the oven]

Homemade Cinnamon Buns

for dough:

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 packet of dry yeast

for filling:

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

for frosting:

  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm milk. Let it stand for 10 minutes, until yeast is foamy. Heat oven to 200F, then turn it off. Mix in the sugar, butter, salt, and eggs. Add flour and mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in warm oven for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.
  3. Roll dough into a 16 x 21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with butter and sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 400F.
  4. Bake rolls on a lower rack in preheated oven until golden brown, about 12 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt [note: I actually doubled the frosting recipe and suggest you do the same]. After taking it out of the oven invert the pan so that the drippings re-coat the buns. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving. Yields 12 rolls.

[into the oven you go]

[sure beats a scented candle]

[ready for their close-up]

*i can’t take all the credit. adapted from this recipe.

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As much as I love living in the heart of a bustling metropolis like Chicago, the winter certainly takes it’s toll. Like most of my urban compadres, I walk or take public trans pretty much everywhere – to the gym, the grocery store, bars, restaurants, you name it. This lifestyle, although frugal and incidentally eco-friendly, is an absolute pain in the kaboose come wintertime.

A born-and-bred Midwesterner, I’ve long since learned to embrace the subzero temperatures and face the frost head on. Here are some of my favorite picks for the winter goddess in all of us.

1. Anthropologie Cassonade Coat [$198]

2. Fred Flare Puffy Convertible Jacket [$86]

3. Patagonia Mabel Hat [$39]

4. Coach Rabbit Mittens [$298]

5. Betsey Johnson Snow Angel Earrings [$31]

6. Topshop Knitted Zigzag Sequin Jumper in Cream [$110]

7. Burberry Earmuffs [$175]

8. AG Stevie Cords [$158]

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I want to come back in my next life as Giada DeLaurentiis. If you’re not familiar with Giada, you should be. She is the gorgeous, sugary sweet, incredibly talented Le Cordon Bleu trained face of Food Network. Oh and did I mention she was born in Rome? *sigh*. I DVR all of her shows and watch them religiously, my favorite being Giada at Home. It’s so touching to see how tight-knit she is with her husband Todd. They’re both in their forties [you would n.e.v.e.r. know it. She serves as further inspiration to maintain my skincare regimen as seen here] and have been a couple for 12 years. It’s also no secret how much she adores her daughter Jade, a.k.a. “Jadey”.

Giada’s meals are tasty, yet she always keeps an eye on things like sodium and fat content, which makes life easier. It also explains how she is a professional chef and yet is the size of a toothpick. Aside from her cooking talents, Giada has a flair for design, which she may have picked up from her hubby who happens to be a fashion designer for Anthropologie. Coolest. Couple. Ever.

Earlier this year, my two worlds collided [in a good way] when I found out that Giada was teaming up with the other love of my life, Target, to debut an exclusive collection of kitchenware designed by Giada. You can see the collection here.

Anyways, I was watching an episode of Giada at Home where she was cooking up these adorable little Cornish game hens and I thought I had to give them a try. After picking some up at the grocery store I came home and realized I didn’t have nearly enough ingredients for Giada’s roasted citrus-herb recipe, so I settled for my own variation. The birds came out juicy and succulent with crispy, sweet skin. Turns out my hens might just give Miss Giada’s a run for their money.

Rosemary-Clementine Cornish Game Hens

  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 clementines
  • zest of 2 clementines
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1 medium white onion

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub hens with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place a clementine, an onion slice, a garlic clove, and a sprig of rosemary into the cavity each bird. Stuff garlic cloves under the skins. Place rest of onion around the birds. Arrange in a large, heavy, roasting pan. Drizzle more olive oil on top of hens. Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together wine, clementine zest, chicken broth, and a drizzle of olive oil; pour over hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes more, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear.

By the way, as you can see by the photos I attempted to ‘truss’ my birds with kitchen twine. I think I fudged up the wings. This video explains how to do it.

I served my birds with a baked potato and poured the sauce from the dish over the baked potato – muy delicioso.

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[an elegant pewter cake stand I picked up at the White Elephant with cinnamon-scented pine cones]

I absolutely love living in Chicago this time of year. Storefronts are festively garnished with red and green, garland and ribbon wrap daintily around street poles, and welcoming wreathes hang from doorways. And let’s not forget the snow – the first snowfall is always the most beautiful. The powder delicately dusts the city and makes it look as picturesque and pretty as a postcard.

This Christmas, I enjoyed the challenge of decorating my apartment in a playful yet classic style that didn’t overwhelm my small space [read: more Pottery Barn, less Clark Griswold].

[fun candycane inspired candles and miniature red glass ornaments greet guests in the entryway]

[it's just not christmas without a tree! my small spruce brightens up the kitchen in a big way]

[even the oven gets into the christmas spirit]

[pine cones arranged on a vintage platter make for a pretty centerpiece. as for the candles, i dressed them up with some ribbon and tape. ta-da!]

[ornaments and lights nestled together all snug in their beds]

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[red pepper flakes and curry powder are the stars of this show]

There’s nothing better than a quiet night in after a long, exhausting, cold winter day. Yesterday was one of those days where I was too tired to fix dinner so I resorted to a no-muss no-fuss meal, and last night my din du jour happened to be popcorn. Yes, I ate popcorn for dinner … sorry Mom, I know that’s disappointing. However, I doctored up my popcorn [per usual] with some unexpected ingredients that kicked this typically ho-hum snack into a full-flavored force to be reckoned with.

In the words of Rachel Zoe, I die for curry. I even have a sweet little spice pot from Anthropologie that’s sole purpose is to house curry. I’ve been using curry as the secret spice in my popcorn for awhile now and this is one secret I don’t mind sharing.

[wearing Forever 21 nail polish in silver as seen here. how festive am i?]

Throw some curry powder and red pepper flakes [about one teaspoon each, as you see fit] onto your next batch of microwave popcorn [oh the shame] and I’m telling you, you’ll never look back. It’s spicy, it’s flavorful, it’s easy – what’s not to love?

[do you like my miniature tree in the background? more to come on that jazz]


[curry popcorn + national lampoon's christmas vacation, done and done.]

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This season *glamorous glitter + shimmering sequins* have been popping up everywhere! From the runway of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to nail polish to cocktail dresses, glitz is here for the holidays. It’s a festive, fun, and whimsical way to add flair to your wardrobe this season, and I for one am a big big fan.

1. Forever 21 Silver nail polish [$2.50 - a steal!]

2. Charlotte Russe Matte Sequin Mini [$32.50]

3. J.Crew Gem-laden Clutch [$98]

4. Literature Noir Sequin Romper [$286]

5. Akira 1/2 Sleeve Sequin Dress [$109.90]

6. Sperry Topsider Bahama Holiday [$75.50]

7. Topshop Gunmetal Sequin Shorts [$90]

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[mom + dad]

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Why am I already thinking about St. Patrick’s Day? I’m not so sure but I saw this Irish Fishermen cardi on sale [for $29.99] at Urban Outfitters the other day and thought it would be perfect for gallivanting around on St. Patty’s. Can’t you picture wearing it with a kelly green tee peaking out from underneath? Okay I’ll stop talking about St. Patrick’s Day seeing as how it’s November, but while we’re on the subject, I’m a firm believer that a girl can never have too many cardigans. They’re so versatile and instantly cozy up any outfit. Here are some that go beyond the basics:

1. Modcloth Hard Rain Cardigan [$57.99] This typically sweet silhouette gets toughened up with some silver studs.

2. American Eagle Cable Knit Wrap Cardigan in Birch Heather [$89.90] This sweater is essentially a blanket that is socially acceptable to wear out in public. Sign me up.

3. J.Crew Merino Sequined Crochet Cardigan in gold [$148] No list of mine would be complete without something from J.Crew. This mustard-gold shade oozes sophistication.

4. Anthropologie Bright Specs Cardi [$98] Feminine frills make this cardi pop.

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[doughnut muffins]

These cute bite-sized treats are just doughnuts stealthily disguised as muffins. By nature, muffins are healthy, therefore by definition these are healthy doughnuts, a rarity I know. These are baked, unlike their deep-friend amigos, and I do use whole-wheat flour + skim milk so they’re relatively innocent.

Doughnut Muffins

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour [if you only have white all-purpose, use that]
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk [I used skim, use whatever you have on hand]

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line mini muffin tray with paper liners or grease tray.
  2. In a large bowl, cream oil and 1 cup sugar; beat in egg. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Stir flour into egg mixture alternately with milk. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. While muffins bake, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Remove muffins from pan and let cool for 5 minutes. While muffins are still warm, roll muffins in cinnamon sugar mixture.
  4. [I was having trouble getting the cinnamon sugar mixture to stick to the muffins so I added this step] Make a simple syrup with equal parts cinnamon, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil and dip muffin tops in simple syrup. Re-dip in cinnamon sugar mixture.
  5. Share and make instant friends.

*adapted from recipe at allrecipes.com

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[my phone {pottery barn} perched prettily on a gray suede chair {urban outfitters} with a glimpse of an orange box {ikea}]

The other day I had a long overdue catch up chat with a dear friend. All too often life gets in the way of keeping in touch with far away friends. There are houses to clean, projects to do, bills to pay, and before you know it the years [literally] have flown by. Like anything else worth having in life, it takes work to keep long distance friendships intact. If you have a pal you haven’t reached out to in awhile, do yourself a favor and rather than logging in on Facebook [you know you do], pick up the phone. Chances are they’re probably itching to catch up with you too.

PS: how awesome is this phone? I searched high and low for this retro look in a cordless style and finally found it at Pottery Barn. UPDATE: I just found out they no longer carry it… sad. I really do love this phone and I hope they put it back on the shelves soon!

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