Stocking Stuffer Gifts 2014

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Christmas is almost here! I can’t even believe it! I’ve had Pentatonix on repeat this weekend, which is totally getting me into the holiday spirit. I’m currently home for 5 days between Thanksgiving and New Years, so I’m soaking in the decorating Andrew and I did back in the beginning of November.Christmas Decorations

A few years ago, I started making Christmas stockings for my mom, dad, and Andrew because I have so much fun finding little gifts to put inside. Here are some of my favorite things from this year that I would love to find in a stocking:

Teeny Bud Vase: I am in love with these adorable little vases! They are so cute with a single stem flower. I think the teardrop shape of this one in particular is so beautiful. Whenever I come home to visit, my mom always has a little vase like this with a few flowers in it on my bedside table – it’s really sweet! I currently have one for each bedside table in our apartment, but I want to get more to use for setting our kitchen table.Teeny Bud VaseLuggage Scale: This little gadget has been my best friend for all of the travel I’ve been doing over the last year – it prevents that awful scene at the airport of pulling things out of your suitcase at the check-in counter to get under 50 pounds. With this, you can weigh your suitcase at home and make sure you are under the limit. I have gotten a lot of comments by the check-in agents about hitting the 50lb weight limit exactly – little do they know that’s exactly what I planned for!

Luggage Scale - Stocking StufferNon-stick Baking Mats and Maldon Sea Salt Flakes: We just recently got these baking slip sheets and I have loved  making cookies with them – no sticking and such a breeze to wipe down after. And if you are going to be baking cookies, then you need a little sea salt to sprinkle on top. Maldon is a “finishing salt” for sprinkling on cookies right after baking. The salt crystals will stay flakey and crisp without melting into the cookie. It also works deliciously well for sprinkling on roasted vegetables or meat right before serving. Maldon is flakier than kosher salt (which is best sprinkled on vegetables and meat before cooking. Or rimming a margarita glass, of course :)

Baking Slip Sheet and Maldon Sea Salt Flakes

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – This is my favorite book that I’ve read this year! It was SO entertaining! Bernadette is a mom to a 15-year-old daughter and wife to a Microsoft guru and has developed such distaste of Seattle that she disappears. The commentary on her life in Seattle was hysterical to me, even though I’ve never been to the city. I tried explaining the plot to my dad and it didn’t really excite him – but to be fair, he’s not the target audience. So for the men in your life, try Unbroken. It’s an incredible story and the movie is about to come out! But all you ladies: please read about Bernadette!Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Silicone Spatula – I use a silicone spatula just about every day. When I learned to use one of these to make scrambled eggs, it was a game changer. I swear. So much easier to scoop the eggs around in the pan. It’s also great for sautéing veggies, making stir fries, stirring dough, just about everything! Everyone should have one of these in their kitchen. Get It Right spatulas are made of silicone so won’t melt if you accidently leave it in the pan while cooking. They are strong and made of one piece so they won’t break with a tough dough. Plus, they come in a ton of fun colors!Get It Right Spatula

Do you need an idea for a white elephant gift? How about this inflatable moose head?? I think he is hysterical! Andrew and I got one for our apartment after we saw our friend Ty hang this moose up with his Christmas decorations. I seriously smile every time I look up at him. We got one for my mom and I think she did a great job accessorizing her moose for Christmas:Inflatable Moose Head

I hope this list gives you some ideas for how to stuff your own stockings this year! You can also see my lists from Stocking Stuffers 2013 and Stocking Stuffers 2012 for more ideas. Happy holidays!!

Wedding Invitation Ornament

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I am crazy about these ornaments! I started making them this year for my just-married friends and they’ve been a big hit! I think it’s such a special way to re-purpose a beautiful wedding invitation so that it gets brought out for decoration every year around the holidays.Wedding Invitation Ornament

These ornaments are actually pretty easy to do. Start by cutting the invitation into thins strips, trying to capture the wording as best you can. The thinner strips will curl better, so sometimes larger names on an invitation can be hard. This is where you can get creative by cutting strips out of any paper from the wedding such as the ceremony program, a shower invite, save the date card, envelope lining, or whatever else would look pretty!Wedding Invitation Ornament

Then, wrap each of the strips very tightly around a pen or pencil and hold for a few seconds. Once it slides off the pen, the paper should maintain its curl. Depending on the cardstock, some invitations will hold the curl better than others.Wedding Invitation Ornament

Slide all of the curls into the top of the ornament (I ordered from amazon), making sure to first include the strips with the most important wording like the couple’s names, location, date, etc. When the ball is full, put the top back on and tie a ribbon around it. To make it a little easier to keep the ribbon in place, you can use a drop of glue and let it dry before you tie the knot.You may want to wait until after the wedding to make the ornament so that you can match the ribbon to the colors of their day.Wedding Invitation OrnamentAnd it’s as simple as that!Wedding Invitation Ornament

Have you saved anyone’s wedding invites from this year? Or possibly your own?? I think this makes a great Christmas or anniversary gift! I can’t wait to do it with our own wedding invite and make separate ornaments with the invites from the beautiful showers our friends threw for us!Wedding Invitation Ornament

Wedding Highlight Video

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Andrew and I have been reliving our wedding day all weekend by re-watching this video! We are SO excited with how it turned out! It perfectly captures all of the details that made our wedding day so special to us. I haven’t yet watched it without tears in my eyes. We both lose it watching my dad and I see each other for the first time. Andrew and I’s first dance was one of our favorite parts of the whole day – so we love getting to see it in the video! Watch how the bridesmaids dip when Andrew dips me – it’s so cute! It was also really fun for me to see the boys getting ready since I obviously wasn’t there. I could go on and on about how amazing this is!! (You can go here to watch it in full screen.)

When I watch this video, all of the emotions I felt on wedding day come right back to me. It’s so incredibly sweet and captures the day exactly how I remember it. Thank you Mark and Chris at Simply Love Films for such an amazing video, better than I could have ever imagined! We can’t wait to see the extended version :)

Moscow Mules

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Have you heard of this drink? I LOVE a good Moscow Mule, any day of year! So does my family now – I’ve got them hooked! It is an incredibly refreshing vodka cocktail with a kick of ginger and hint of lime. These are so easy to make at home with the right recipe and ingredients. Why not mix up something a little different for your next cocktail hour? I know we will definitely be making these at Thanksgiving in a few weeks :)Moscow Mule / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Ginger beer is a less sugary version of ginger ale and it is not interchangeable here. Over the last year, we have tried several different ginger beers and have found that Gosling’s is the best. There are some really bad ginger beers out there and because there are only 3 ingredients in this cocktail, it’s important that the ginger beer is good!Gosling's Ginger Beer

At our wedding, Andrew and I served our two favorite specialty cocktails. One was our all-time favorite: a freshly made margarita. We named it the “Maze-a-rita”, for my new last name – Maze! The other cocktail we served was this Moscow Mule, which we renamed the “Milwaukee Mule” that night.Moscow Mule

Wondering why drink a Moscow mule out of a copper mug? Mainly, because they are fun! But I have read that the copper keeps the drink cooler and enhances the flavors. Copper mugs can be found all over these days. I like these smooth mugs and this hammered finish. Are you looking for a fun hostess, wedding or Christmas gift? Put together a Moscow Mule basket with copper mugs, vodka, ginger beer, and maybe a lime juicer! Turns out I am behind the times here because Oprah had this Moscow Mule kit as one of her favorite things in 2012.Moscow Mule

Moscow Mules

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 shots vodka (2 shots if you like a strong drink!)
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (about ½ a shot)
  • ½ cup ginger beer* (1 can makes 3 cocktails)
  • ice

Directions:

In a glass or copper mug, combine the vodka and lime juice first, and then pour in the ginger beer. Add a big handful of ice and stir. Serve right away.

*If using copper mugs, stick them in the freezer an hour before serving so that they are frosted.

*I’ve tried several different ginger beers and some of them have been awful (don’t buy Reed’s)! The Gosling’s brand is my favorite and the most widely available. Depending on what city you are in, you might be able to find a great local or craft ginger beer. Because there are only 3 ingredients in this drink, a bad ginger beer will make a bad cocktail.

Cheers!!

Our Hawaiian Honeymoon

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A few people have asked “How’s married life so far?” Well, we spent 2 of the 3 weeks in Hawaii, so I can easily tell you it’s the greatest thing ever!! We left for our honeymoon adventure Sunday afternoon, the day after the wedding, to keep the party going. We spent the first night in downtown Chicago at The Drake and then before we knew it, we were on a flight to Hawaii Monday morning. After a full day of travel, we were wearing leis and kukui nuts!Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Our first week was spent in Maui, staying at The Grand Wailea. It was a beautiful start! Especially when we got to the room and found champagne and chocolate covered strawberries waiting for us – thanks mom and dad! We made it just in time for our first of many sunsets.Wailea, Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

My favorite day on Maui was spent driving the “Road to Hana”. It is a twisty, windy narrow highway, passing over 46 one way brides and about 620 turns following the coast around the island. The drive itself would take about 4 hours without stops – but we spent 11 hours doing it. There are so many fun places to stop off along the way to do short hikes, swim under waterfalls, or visit beaches, that we ran out of time to do everything we wanted to.Road to Hana, Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.comWe used this great iPhone app called “Gypsy Guide – Road to Hana” that uses GPS to locate where we were and narrate the trip with facts and recommendations on where to stop. We felt like we were on a treasure hunt because most destinations are unmarked so it’s exciting when you find the next stop! We saw a lot of these eucalyptus trees that look like they belong in a Doctor Seuss book:Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

We loved seeing all of the lava formations along the coast:Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

This is one of the little pools we stopped off to swim in. To my horror, Andrew jumped off the rocks to the right of the bridge here.Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

This is the black sand beach where we stopped for a swim:Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

And a little while later, hiked this narrow path to get to a red sand beach!Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.comMaui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

We had the best dinner of our lives, hands down, at Mama’s Fish House. Andrew said it perfectly when we walked out – “Never have we spent more on a dinner, but my only regret is that I didn’t have room to order and eat more!” When we got to our table looking out over the ocean, our friends Elaine and Antonio had a bottle of wine waiting for us. It was so special!Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

After a week on Maui, we hopped on a quick plane ride over to Kauai. Wow, this island is stunning! Within an hour of landing, I knew this island would be my favorite island! It’s just so lush and tropical and picturesque. We stayed on the north side of the island the first 4 days in a VRBO, with this view from our balcony. It was absolutely dreamy sitting here for eating breakfast in the morning or sipping champagne in the evening.Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Our favorite beach on the north side of the island was Hanalei Bay, which is surrounded by Jurassic Park looking mountains. We did some great boogie boarding – my favorite!Hanalei Bay / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Kauai is famous for the Na Pali Coast – it was unbelievably gorgeous! We first saw it hiking along the Kalalau Trail:Kalalau Trail, Maui / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

To really take in the coastline through, you need to go out on a boat (or helicopter!!) ride to see it all. Unfortunately, it rained most of the time we were out on the boat, but it was still gorgeous in a mystical kind of way.Na Pali Coast, Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

If it had been sunny, this is what we would have seen:Na Pali Coast, Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

We spent our last 3 nights on the south “sunny” side of the island at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, relaxing luxuriously and soaking up the last few days of the honeymoon. Discovering the multiple pools and beach front at the Hyatt, we canceled our remaining excursions to just unwind.Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Have you heard of post-wedding depression? Turns out, it’s a real thing! I’ve been so sad all week that the best two and a half weeks of our lives are over! I have almost started crying several times, wishing we were either back dancing to the band at our wedding reception or lounging alligator style in this salt water lagoon…Kauai / www.sarasfavoritethings.com

Our wedding was dreamy and our honeymoon was pure heaven. I couldn’t have asked for anything better! It was amazing to spend 2 full weeks swimming, snorkeling, hiking, relaxing, and having fun with MY HUSBAND! Still getting used to calling him that :)

*A special thanks to Ginny Wagner for helping us plan our stay on Kauai and to Kelsey Stapp, Matt Weinberg, and Kiki Lyons for the Maui tips!

 

Wisconsin Wedding Whirlwind

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It has been a whirlwind around here! Andrew and I have been to 3 weddings in Wisconsin over the last 3 weekends….and will cap it off next weekend with our own! Sitting in yesterday’s ceremony, it really hit us: we will be the ones standing up there in exactly 7 days!! It was a very emotional and surreal moment.

Our Wisconsin wedding series kicked off for us September 6th in Milwaukee when one of my best friends and roommates from college, Rachael, married a tennis friend of mine, Ryan. I’ve never felt so much love in the air or seen such a stunning bride!Rachael Buck Wedding

Their photographer, Carl from Front Room, will be photographing our wedding as well. I love his great action shots!Rachael - Champagne Picture

Last weekend, we had a wedding in Lake Geneva for our friends from California, Betsy and Greg. Most of my bridesmaids were in town for the event as well, so we all went to work on crafts for my wedding. Even my brother jumped in to help decorate the votive candles. He came up with the best technique – finger painting the mod podge on!

Mike and votives 2

My parents’ house is basically dusted in gold at this point, you can tell there is a party brewing!Votive Candles

My mom got the “dancing shoes” ready, so there are no excuses for leaving the dance floor early!Wedding flip flops

Then we all headed to Lake Geneva for the wedding!betsy wedding group

The ceremony was outside looking over a lake – it was so beautiful!! Afterwards, Betsy and Greg drove off in a golf cart. I’ve never seen Betsy look so happy!!

Betsy's wedding golf kart 1

Yesterday, we got to watch my childhood friend, Jenny, marry the man of her dreams, Brock. It was such a lovely ceremony with a beautiful a capella performance.

Jenny's wedding church

Andrew and I can hardly wait for all of our best friends and family to join us in Milwaukee in a few short days! September 27th, here we come!Jenny's wedding - Andrew and I 3

Wedding update – 1 month away!!

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It’s hard to believe that as of today, our wedding is officially 1 month away! In 31 days, we will be a Mr. and Mrs. I don’t know if I’m prepared for that – I still feel too young to be a Mrs!! I also don’t want all the wedding celebration and champagne toasts to end :) It’s been an exciting 9 months to get to this point.

We have had so much fun getting everyone’s RSVP cards back! I didn’t realize how creative people would be – I’m fully prepared to step up my game with decorating the future RSVP cards I send in. My friend Jack’s mom even put a high school picture of Jack and I taped to the back! It was adorable. We asked people on the response card to answer “I promise to dance if you play:” and I think my favorite response so far is “Nice try!” I guess they won’t be dancing, no matter what song we play!Wedding RSVP card

Since most of my bridesmaids live in LA, I picked Santa Barbara for my bachelorette party. We had an absolute blast! My sister found this amazing house on VRBO for all 9 of us to stay in for the weekend. It was a dream to hang out in this treehouse bungalow with some of my best friends in the world. The backyard was all terraces, leading from an outdoor kitchen, to ping pong table, to bocce ball court, to fire pit…it was so cool!Santa Barbara

It was so special for me to have my mom there, as well as two of her best friends, who have known me since I was born. My bridesmaids and I loved having them with us! They actually surprised us all with the most creative lingerie gift!Santa Barbara

We could’ve easily spent the whole weekend hanging out at this house…but there were vineyards to visit! My bridesmaid Kristen made us the coolest tank tops. All the girls’ tanks said “That’s What She Said!” and my tank said “Yes!” How cute are these??Bachelorette Tank Tops

My bridesmaid Ashley made us a “Bachelorette Scavenger Hunt” to check off while we were touring the vineyards. It was hysterical! My favorite was “Get a stranger to get down on one knee and propose to Sara” – great work on this one, Abi! This guy had us all dying because out of nowhere he came up behind me and said “Sara, [long pause] this has been a long time coming…”Bachelorette Scaverger Hunt

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect weekend spent with all of these fun ladies laughing and tasting lots of wine :)
Bachelorette Party at the Winery

Last weekend, I was home in Milwaukee for a bridal shower that was absolutely magical! Everything was touched with sparkly gold, from the flecks of gold sprinkled in our champagne to the golden beach balls floating in the pool behind me, my sister and my mom:Bridal Shower

The host, Susan, who was part of the bachelorette party, had secretly ordered wine from all of the vineyards we visited to do a blind taste test at the shower! And labeled them gold…Wedding Shower - Wine Tasting

The food was over the top delicious – and dairy/gluten free for me! And the table was beautiful!Wedding Shower - Dinner

We were all laughing hysterically at this shower game, which asked the ladies to submit a question to me about Andrew. Then, they could share a “marital bliss” tip. My sister quizzed me in front of everyone after dinner and then shared the tip. I’m still cracking up over this advice: “60 second kiss at the door after work every day”. Now that’s a LONG kiss!!Wedding Shower Game

My favorite part of all of this wedding planning and celebrating so far has been all of the time I’ve gotten to spend with those that I love. I really mean it! I can’t believe that in 5 weekends, all of the people that Andrew and I love will be in one place! I get teary just thinking about it! It makes us want to jump with excitement!Jumping Wedding Picture