christmas

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If you’re like me and wait until the very last minute to begin your Christmas shopping [next year i'm starting promptly after Halloween. i swear.], do not panic! All will be well, yes, all will be well because this year it’s Crosell & Co. [900 N. Michigan Ave., Level 5, Chicago] to the rescue.

Located right off the Mag Mile, Crosell & Co. specializes in eclectic, original, art-designed items. A variety of one-of-a-kind gifts, tableware, home furnishings, jewelry and decorative accessories line the shelves of this whimsical shop. Each treasure has been meticulously handpicked from artists and designers in New York, Paris and London and, of course, our very own Chitown.

One of my favorite items is the Fisherman Salt [pictured below] by Le Pere Pelletier [$26]. I love the rustic packaging and the salt itself is premium selected sea salt with a blend of herbs, peppers and sugars. It’s the perfect gift for the person who has it all.

Good luck with your last minute shopping everyone!

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[coffee break]

{ slam dunk }

Sometimes all it takes is a little cup of jo and a homemade pizzelle [made by your talented mama] to kickstart your morning routine. I like my coffee sweetened with some good old-fashioned sugar and milk. Over Christmas the girls in my family made a couple batches of my mom’s lightly-sweet and satisfying vanilla pizzelles. Behold, a recipe that’s been in our family for generations and guarantees a deliciously delicate cookie every time.

Pizzelles

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups of flour (approx)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 4 tsps baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp anise or 2 tblsp vanilla

Beat eggs adding sugar gradually. Beat until smooth. Add cooled melted butter and vanilla or anise [some people don't care for the black licorice flavor of anise]. Sift flour and baking powder and add to egg mixture. Dough will be sticky enough to be dropped by spoon in pizzelle maker. Cook in pizzelle maker and then store in airtight container.

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[this fur coat is really coming in handy]

[maybe if i stop waking mom and dad up in the middle of the night, santa will bring me cheese this year]

[welp, for now i'll just stick to the fluffy white stuff]

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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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[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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