2013 is going to be a hard year to beat.

366 days ago, I wrote on my Facebook page that "2013 will be the best year," and I won't pretend to hesitate when admitting how right that prediction was. This was a huge year in my life, though I'm sad that, with all the busyness this year threw at me, I wasn't able to share every little detail with you. I'm not big on resolutions, but this is one I am really going to work for in 2014: while I'll be busy with a few other fun projects this year, I'm recommitting myself in 2014 to keep this blog going strongly. I'm sorry I failed you this year.

Because I wasn't the greatest shower-and-teller this year, allow me to recap just why 2013 was the greatest 365 days in my 28 years of existence:

So, obviously this was the most exciting thing to happen to me this year. On May 18th, I gained the raddest husband on earth and we threw, in my humble opinion, the Most Perfect Wedding of All Time in the History of the Universe. For the year and a half leading up to the big day, I wondered how it could be possible to pull off this meticulously-detailed wedding that had been floating around in my head, but on that day, with the help of the most amazing friends and family imaginable, not only did everything turn out just as I had imagined - but it was better. The day was the perfect symbol of our relationship - easygoing, full of fun, a little sappy, bursting with color and happiness and plenty of goofy moments. It was a sentimental day full of love, followed by a huge, champagne-soaked party. I couldn't wipe the big, dumb grin off my face all day - not only because it was the wedding I'd always wanted, but because this pretty-cool dude was now my husband. Best day of my entire life, and then some.

P.S. Want to see more wedding pictures? Check out some more photos of before-the-ceremony, all the little details I made and the super-happy, tear-filled ceremony itself.


A month before our wedding, (A MONTH BEFORE OUR WEDDING), we tore down the main wall between our living room and what was then our "French" room. While we were at it, we tore a big hole in our stairway and added a bannister so we could see from our kitchen to our living room. It was a big project, but it made a huge impact and our little home feels so much bigger! I'm still amazed when I look back at pictures of how it looked previously and how it looks now. What a difference!


In the fall, the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel's new lifestyle site, Fresh, launched... and I was tapped to be the resident home-design blogger. It was a huge honor to be asked to blog for them, and I've had an absolute blast doing so! It's been a fun side project and it's nice to have a new audience reading my work. Writing professionally has always been my dream - we're talking since I was, like, six. So picking up my new blog, Make, Do and Mend, and a couple other freelance projects along the way, is me making a couple huge, happy leaps to that dream. Plus, I get to write about what I love - thrifty DIY home design! This year, after a lot of work and patience, it all started falling into place for me.

(P.S. Check out Make, Do and Mend's latest post: "New Year's Resolutions for your Home")

Surprise! If you don't follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may not know yet that I recently accepted a job as contingent editor at a major national magazine. I may have always wanted to be a writer, but I went to college with the hopes of one day working at a magazine. After working in marketing for seven years, I'd all but kissed goodbye my magazine dreams, until I began freelancing for the magazine last summer, and then was offered my new position in late November. I begin next week, and am so excited to get started! Another dream, realized.

Wisconsin's largest newspaper featured our home in their "At Home With..." feature in both the print and online editions. We were interviewed and our home was photographed and I was so uncomfortable being the subject of this feature.... I'm used to being the one writing, not being written about! However, we had a lot of really nice compliments about the interview and our home, so we appreciated it. It was just kind of fun opening our home for so many people to see!

I can't get over how amazing this year was. Just thinking about everything above, and all the little things in between, I get nothing but big puffy floating hearts dancing in my eyes. I've never really had luck on my side, and things generally don't come easy to me, but this year, things just..... worked. I'm reminded of a quote from Conan O'Brien, after being fired from NBC, on his first "Conan" show on TBS, he said, "If you work hard and are kind, amazing things will happen." This is the best summarization of things I can work up while sitting here, on the last day of a pretty incredible year, thinking about all the amazing things that have happened to me in 2013. Big, big things are ahead, and I can only hope that the same good fortune that I've experienced this year can be realized by all of you.

Here's to a great year behind us and an even better one to come. Kick all the butt in 2014, my friends. The happiest new year to you all!


A Few of my Favorite Things (this Christmas)

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, friends! I'm fully aware of the uncharacteristic lack of Christmas posts this year, but the shortened Christmas season, paired with quitting my job (and landing an exciting new gig, which begins in January) have left this holiday season as the most hectic one in memory. Number of Christmas crafts I conquered this year: ZERO. This fact is frightening and sad to me... Didn't make one new decoration, ornament or gift this year. Who am I???

However, I'm looking forward to an extended 15-day vacation, beginning today, to relax, soak up the holiday and complete a few projects around the house that I promise to share with you (hey, I'll even finally have enough time to update more frequently!).

It's not like I haven't done anything Christmassy this season - far from it. And to prove that to you, I'm going to let you in on "a few of my favorite things" (get it?? GET IT??!?!?) I've done so far to celebrate my favorite time of year:

Raindrops on roses Snow dropped on backyards...
Over the weekend Milwaukee got walloped with snow. Overnight on Saturday we got at least six to seven inches, making holiday travel difficult for most. However, I love the fresh new blanket of snow that coats everything in the perfect Rockwellian Christmas glow. All the snow clinging to the trees and grape arbor in our backyard sets the perfect scene for the holidays.

... and whiskers on kittens
I mean, come on. Just look at this guy.

Bright copper kettles Bright copper beverages...
In the search for the greatest Christmas brew, you can stop right at Great Lakes Brewery's Christmas Ale. Unlike some Christmastime-marketed beers, it doesn't hit you over the head with orange, nutmeg and clove; it's got just a hint of holiday spice to make you feel that warm, festive feeling. The perfect beverage for your Yuletide imbibing needs.

... and warm woolen mittens ... and warm felt Santa hats/beards
I ran a Santa Hustle 5k earlier this month where each runner got a Santa-suit-inspired shirt, hat and beard. At first I thought it would be annoying to run with the beard, but as it was about 16 degrees that day, I found it to be an excellent face warmer. What a fun race!

Brown paper packages tied up with strings
I had a blast wrapping Christmas presents this year (yes, whilst using plenty of kraft paper and baker's twine). I love being creative with each gift and adding just a little personal touch to everything. When I wasn't using kraft paper, you better believe I made good use of that adorable penguin paper - it's my favorite.

These are a few of my favorite things
After visiting my parents over Thanksgiving, I brought back some old records I used to love as a kid/had completely forgotten about. Let me tell you, after a few spins this Christmas season, these two still hold up.

Cream colored ponies  Cream colored goodies
As is tradition, I was busy, busy, busy making sweet treats in the kitchen this year. Once again my Christmas Cake-Batter Popcorn was gobbled up very quickly, and I spent a few backbreaking hours decorating the hell out of my classic frosted sugar cookies. It's a lot of work, but Christmas surely wouldn't come if I didn't make these treats every year.

... and crisp apple strudel ... and crisp savory meat pie
Meat pie is a traditional Christmas dish in Eric's family, so ever since we began dating I've enjoyed a meat pie each year. This year, for an annual Christmas gathering with friends, Eric made a gussied up version of the standard meat pie (don't tell Grandma!), which was delicious. Our friend Andy is an expert crust-smith and added the special "MP" (for meat pie) embellishment on top.

Doorbells and sleigh bells Buckeye balls and Martha Washington balls
As with the popcorn and cookies above, Buckeyes and Martha Washingtons are classic Christmas treats we love to make each year.

... and schnitzel with noodles and snacks by the oodles
There is no counting calories at Christmas. Only eating the piles and piles of delicious food thrown in your hungry face at every turn.

Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings Uhhh.... I've got nothing for this.

Moving on.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes Friends in white outfits at holiday bashes
We attended a "White Christmas" party earlier this month where guests were encouraged to come dressed in all-white attire. Eric and I approached the theme a bit more loosely and dressed as Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes. We had a blast with this. I highly suggest bringing a pair on drum sticks with you to any and all parties you attend from here on out.

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Again with the snow. Even Mr. Pancakes is enthralled with it.

Silver white winters than melt into springs. (see above)

These are a few of my favorite things (Christmas lights!!)
Obviously, you know I'm a big fan on these.

(I realize the following three entries are not part of the "favorite things," but roll with me on this one)

When the dog bites... 
Meet Penny, the most adorable new resident on the block. Whenever I'm in need of a puppy fix I can mosey on across the street to our pals' house and play with this cute-as-a-button pup. She is sweet at sweet can be.

... when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad...

The Onion's announcement of it terminating its print edition was a big kick in the gut for me. I've always loved flipping through its pages while at a local coffee shop and stifling the laughter brought on by each knee-slapping story. Its local A.V. Club outfit in Milwaukee has also gone the way of the Dodo, which also makes me terribly sad. I made sure to grab a few copies of the last issue, which, in true Onion fashion, sported one last hilarious cover.

... I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad.
D'aawwww. I had warm special feelings when placing this ornament on the tree this year - our first Christmas together as a married couple. Of all of my favorite things this year, being married to my super-rad husband is my favoritest.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope the holiday is filled with all of your favorite things and then some. Have a spectacular holiday!


Let There Be Lights

As you may be aware, we are a Christmas-loving household. Not just in the sense that we can more or less (Eric more, me just slightly less) recite "A Christmas Story" word for word (my word-for-word movie is "Home Alone." Trust me. I've done it. Tot he chagrin of agonized audiences within earshot). And not only because we enjoy the tradition of putting up the tree making Christmas treats and listening to holiday tunes. When it comes to celebrating Christmas we like to go all out, so due to our shortened Christmas season (just three and a half weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas), we're trying to cram in as much as possible.

Last spring, Eric surprised me by removing the two, ugly-old trees from our front yard. Not only did this ramp up our home's curb appeal immensely, but it also created an opening for more space to work with on the Christmas-light-display front. Eric's motto, when it comes to Christmas lights, is "More is more, and also, let's add more." And honestly, I've never been one to lean toward "tasteful" Christmas decorations. All-white lights are beautiful and classy, but, for me, when it comes to Christmas decorations, the more garish, the more kitsch-tastic, the better.

And so, our display has grown. We've got a lot going on now that we've got extra room to spare out front, and are not taking granted of that space. We flipped the switch on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and in the days that have passed we've received a ton of compliments from passersby. Our three-year-old neighbor said, with our lights on, we "look like we're partying!" And apparently our other toddler-neighbor across the streets likes to stand in the window and stare at the lights, as well. For Eric, the big kid himself, his favorite part of putting up the lights is hearing and seeing the neighborhood kids enjoy them.

Although plenty of adults have complimented our display, too.

So now, in its entirety, I give you our improved, slightly larger, 2013 Christmas light display:
As I say every year, the photos don't really do this display justice. For one, you can't see that the candy canes that line each side of our yard flash continuously. Secondly, there is a lot of detail that doesn't come through. But, I mean, you get the picture. (If you want to see the whole thing in action, check out the video Eric posted on Instagram last week).

We've got a number of new items this year. Most notably, the MERRY X-MAS Scrabble tiles on the left side of the yard. Eric had the idea for these a few weeks ago, and put me to work in making them.

To make them, we bought pre-cut 24"x24" sanded plywood, then I just simply (though somewhat painstakingly) drew and painted the letters on each. Eric affixed them to some wooden posts with heavy-duty construction glue, and we pounded them into the ground at a height that would still allow people to see the tile numbers once we get a few inches of Christmas snow (by the way, we received five inches of snow yesterday - I wish I had a chance to show you the lights in the snow! I may post an update when I get a chance).

Also new this year is my pal Snoopy and his buddy Woodstock. This is the first animatronic decoration we've ever purchased, and I've had my eye on him for well over a year now (Eric finally caved when I asked him if we could pplllleeeeeaaasssseeee add this to our display this year). The mailbox lid opens and closes while the lights are on, and I just think it's so cute every time Woodstock pops out to say "hello."

Also new this year are the smiling snowman and candy cane near the front door of the house, and a second penguin pal on the right side of our yard. Eric also added a few extra strands of lights, as well as a red and green floodlight on each corner of the house.

Of course, Mr. Bear was welcomed back to his rightful place in the front yard once again this year, adorned with his favorite Santa hat, and holding a festively-lit wreath, as in years past.

We're pretty pleased with our display this year. Nothing matches or goes together whatsoever, but, oh, are there a lot of pretty lights. Every once in a while I'll catch Eric just looking out the window at them, proud of his work and happy to light our street once again this Christmas season.

Many more Christmas updates to come! Until then, stay festive, gang!



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