The Best Indoor Holiday Wreaths

November 29, 2017 by Melissa | 0 Comments

Right now, I am all about finding the best holiday decor.  I like things to be subtle – nothing too gawdy or over the top – but also festive.  I think that a beautiful wreath over a mantle or hung on an inside door can add just the right touch.  It is a nice reminder of the holiday season.

When I am thinking about indoor wreaths, I think faux and live work well.  Of course, if you opt for a live wreath, think about spritzing it from time to time so that it doesn’t dry out. Even taking the occasional spritz into account, wreaths are a relatively low-maintenance way to spruce up your home for the holidays.  Here are some of my current faves.West Elm Boxwood Wreath

Boxwood Wreath (16″ or 20″)

West Elm Kraft Glitter Gold Leaf Wreath

Kraft Gold & Glitter Leaf Wreath

Crate & Barrel Red Berry Wreath

Red Berry Wreath

Crate and Barrel Magnolia Wreath

Magnolia Wreath

Cost Plus World Market Magnolia WreathAnother beautiful magnolia wreath  

CB 2 White Berry WreathWhite Berry Wreath

CB2 Inner Peace Wreath - Holiday

Inner Peace Wreath

I especially love the “Inner Peace” wreath.  Rather than being a political statement, I think it is a not too subtle reminder to keep the peace within your family during what can be an emotional and taxing holiday season.  Combine the inner peace wreath with some [inner peace] wine and you are sure to host a lovely family get together.  Happy holidays!

DIYs to get in the holiday mood

November 28, 2017 by Ariana | 0 Comments

Now that we’ve all gotten some holiday shopping done and hopefully, taken advantage of the Black Friday, Small Shops Saturday and Cyber Monday discounts, we’re turning our attention to holiday decor.  We tend to break out the same decorations annually, so this year, I’d like to change things up a bit.  Here are some DIYs that are sure to get us all in the holiday mood.  Stay tuned.

Click on photos for sources.

Two Great Cooking Classes in Chicago

November 27, 2017 by Melissa | 0 Comments

Cook Au Vin Cooking Class

I was recently lucky enough to participate in two amazing cooking classes on the same day.  It just so happened that a neighborhood friend invited me to join her for an afternoon class and a friend from my children’s school invited me to a class on the same evening.  If you ever read this blog, you know that I love to cook.  So, there was no chance I was going to decline either invitation.  Instead, I put on my stretch-y pants and enjoyed two wonderful meals.  Both classes were fun and informative.  Thankfully, the format of the classes as well as the menus were very different so having both on the same day did not feel like groundhog day.

Amanda Skrip

My afternoon class was taught by Amanda Skrip.  I was invited to join a group of women who have known Amanda and been taking classes from her on a somewhat regular basis for years. Amanda is a natural foods educator, chef, health coach, and wellness expert. She graduated from New York University in 2005 with a degree in Communication and Nutrition Studies. Amanda went on to receive her culinary training at the Natural Gourmet Institute and furthered her holistic nutrition education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. After working in kitchens in New York City, Amanda relocated to Chicago and began to share her passion for natural foods and healthy living with her private cooking and coaching clients.

For our class, we met in one of the participant’s homes and Amanda demonstrated the preparation of a menu of healthy fall side dishes.  And, of course, as participants, we were able to sample the fruits of her labor.  The menu included: creamy white beans with crispy Brussels sprouts; roasted sweet potatoes and apples with pomegranate; beets with spinach, goat cheese and pistachio; wild rice with French beans and shallots; and, chocolate coconut tart.  I should note that this was not a hands-on class; this was a demonstration.  But, as someone who cooks often, it was nice to sit back and let someone else handle the dirty work.  As you can see from the images below, the finished product was amazing.

Amanda Skrip Cooking Class, Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Apples with Pomegranate

Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Apples with Pomegranate

Amanda Skrip Cooking Class, Wild Rice with French Beans + Shallots

Wild Rice with French Beans + Shallots

Amanda Skrip Cooking Class Beets with Spinach, Goat Cheese + Pistachio

Beets with Spinach, Goat Cheese + Pistachio

Amanda Skrip Cooking Class, Creamy White Beans with Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Creamy White Beans with Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Amanda Skrip Cooking Class, Chocolate Coconut Tart

Chocolate Coconut Tart

If you like to cook healthy, whole food, I highly recommend signing up for one of Amanda’s classes.  All of her dishes were easy and delicious.  Amanda teaches public cooking classes at Whole Foods Market in Chicago, is the resident chef of Bump Club and Beyond, and is a nutritional coach for Ruth’s Hemp Foods. She has been featured in Daily Candy, Vital Juice, Mindful Metropolis and has appeared on I Am Healthy Radio, NBC Chicago and You and Me This Morning.  You can sign up for her classes, workshops and newsletters on her website www.amandaskrip.com.

Cook Au Vin

My evening class was at the Cook Au Vin cooking school.  Cook Au Vin offers French-fusion cooking classes in Chicago.  The school is run by the group that owns the La Boulangerie bakeries in Lakeview and Ravenswood.  The format of the Cook Au Vin class was different from Amanda’s in that it was a hands-on experience.  The participants prepare their dinner under the guidance of an experienced chef and then enjoy the meal they have prepared at a lovely farm table in the kitchen.  The class was in the evening and the school encourages participants to bring wine to enjoy during the class and, of course, the meal.  Our menu included: gougères, fresh fettuccine, haricot vert with roasted mushrooms, saumon au beurre blanc, and chocolate souffle.

Cook Au Vin Gougeres


Cook Au Vin, Salmon with Fresh Pasta and Haricot Vert

Salmon with Fresh Pasta and Haricot Vert

Cook Au Vin Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate Souffle


I can’t say enough good things about the Cook Au Vin class.  While not as health-focused as Amanda’s class, we used fresh, whole ingredients and made everything from scratch.  The chef was excellent at taking a group of people with varying levels of cooking skills and pulling together a beautiful meal.  It was a fun and informative evening and a great way to spend time with friends.

If you live in the Chicago area, I highly recommend both of these cooking programs.  Check out their websites and, if you have questions, feel free to post a comment below.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2017 by Ariana | 0 Comments

Download this free printable and coordinating banner for your Thanksgiving celebration here.

Decorating The Exterior Of Your Home For The Holidays

November 21, 2017 by Melissa | 0 Comments

National Lampoons Christmas Vacation Lights

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I cannot help to think about Christmas.  It seems like Christmas lights are going up sooner and sooner each year.  In fact, not only have a few of my neighbors already hung their exterior lights, they are also turning them on every evening.  To be honest, hanging Christmas lights before Thanksgiving seems a bit too early to me (but I seem to be in the minority on this).

When it comes to holiday decor, I am a firm believer in the old adage, “less is more.”  We have one Christmas tree in our home and a few mantel decorations.  As I am looking around at the Christmas lights that have already sprung up, I have started thinking more about our exterior decor.  Since we do not plan to hire professionals, we can’t pick anything too extravagant or gravity-defying.  I have always loved the idea of hanging simple wreaths on the windows and front door, perhaps with lit topiaries on the porch.  So, I decided to hunt around a bit and see if anyone else has used the look I am imagining.

Holiday front door with wreaths and garland

Image courtesy of onekindesign.com

The image above is close to what I am picturing, minus the swooping and side-hanging garland and lanterns.  While this is a bit more extravagant than my ideal look, I do think it is very festive.

Holiday wreath against Black Front Door

While I likely would not choose a pink ribbon, I think the wreath above is very beautiful.  I’d love to have six of these to place over our front door and windows.

Christmas Wreaths Decorating Exterior Windows

Image courtesy of MyDesignChic.com

I love the wreaths on the front door and windows of the home above.   But, again, I could do without the swooping garland.

Christmas Wreaths on Windows and Front door

Image courtesy of DecorPad.com 

I found it!  The perfect Christmas exterior.  The wreaths are the right size and perfectly placed on the windows.  And, with just a couple of topiaries to accent the front door, nothing is too overdone.  Now, I just need to figure out how to get the wreaths attached to the windows without putting holes in the frames.  Details, details. . . .