Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year


Can you believe that 2012 is coming to an end!?! We hope that you are enjoying the last day of 2012 with your family and friends!

We will be back later this week with a recap of our holidays and maybe some New Year resolutions!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

We hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

With love,




Saturday, December 22, 2012

HSB Christmas Party!

Earlier this week we realized Christmas was only a week away and if we wanted to have a Christmas party we better do it soon!  So on Friday we gathered at B's house with our little ones for a fun filled afternoon of cookie and "tree" decorating.  Of course B had everything set up adorably!

For some reason I was left in charge of the cut out is a sampling of some of my best work...NOT!!

Just kidding, those were the only burnt ones.  And B, never one to let anything go to waste, said she is going to hang them on her Christmas tree! Doesn't that last one look like a cracker or a pita chip or something?! Its supposed to be a present!

Anyway the first thing we let the kids do is make some trees.  This is a great project for little ones, instead of making gingerbread houses.  All you need to do is get ice cream cones and put green icing on them then let the kids decorate them with candy, sprinkles, gum drops, or whatever you like!  At first Jacob wasn't that into it as evidenced by this picture.

But eventually all the kids got into the spirit and had a lot of fun doing this!

By the time the kids were done decorating their trees, they were not really that interested in decorating cookies, so us moms got to work decorating.  B wanted to make strands of lights on the round sugar cookies, and they came out really cute!

Hooch was so caught up in the Holiday spirit while decorating these cookies she began serenading me and B Christmas carols and even admitted that there are Christmas songs that make her cry every time she hears them.  (Can anyone guess what they are??) She even got creative and decided to make a Grinch face and a Christmas tree on some of the cookies.

(She said that is the Grinch after his heart grows!)

B also had a delicious Grinch Punch that she made with lime sherbet and ginger ale.  It was so good and even the kids loved it!

Also take notice of her lovely DIY Advent calendar in the background!

All in all our HSB Christmas party was a hit, the kids had fun, ate a lot of icing and candy, and HSB did some cute decorating and had a lot of laughs!

Now on to do last minute Christmas shopping, baking, and cleaning!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

I wish I was one of those people who had their dinners all planned out for the week or month, but I'm just not.  I'll admit it now, I'm a procrastinator...and my procrastination has crossed over into my dinner making.  Most nights, I do not have a plan for dinner, and I usually don't start thinking about it until about 4:00 or later.  And if I don't have a definite plan for what I want to make, I will check my cookbooks or online recipe sites to see if I can find something new to make.  So, yesterday, I was somewhat on top of it.  I had about 4 lbs of chicken breasts that I just bought and needed to use.  Knowing that I can find many recipes that use cooked chicken, I put my chicken in the slow cooker(adding only salt, black pepper, and water) around 9:30 in the morning and cooked it on high all day.  Trying to use whatever else I had on hand, I remembered that I just bought these really good sandwich rolls from Costco, and decided I would use the cooked chicken to make BBQ chicken sandwiches.  Only one problem...I was OUT of BBQ sauce! Instead of nixing the BBQ chicken idea, I looked up a few recipes to see if I could make my own sauce from scratch.  Taking what ingredients seemed to be the same for all of them, I then adjusted it to my liking (and with what ingredients I had on hand).   Here's what I came up with:

BBQ sauce for BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
adapted from Farmgirl Fare

1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup golden molasses
2 TB granulated sugar
2 TB honey
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained and pureed (I used my mini food processor)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
a few shakes of ground cayenne pepper (optional)

Heat oil in 4 qt. sauce pan at medium heat.  Add onions, and cook until softened. Reduce heat, and cook onions for 30 minutes to caramelize, stirring occasionally.  Turn heat back up to medium, and add garlic. Cook for 5 minutes.  Add the rest of ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place sauce in food processor to smooth out if desired.  Makes about 2 cups. 

Once the chicken was cooked until it was very tender and falling apart, I took 2 1/2 chicken breasts (about 2 lbs) and shredded it with two forks.  Then, added the hot BBQ sauce, and stirred to coat the chicken.  I served it on the delicious sandwich rolls from Costco with extra dipping sauce on the side. 

These sandwiches were so good, but I'm telling you, the chicken was so good that it could be eaten without a roll!! Delicious! My 5 year old son, who at first refused to take a bite of the chicken, finally tried one bite, then asked for more!  He said it was "really good"!  As for the leftover 1 1/2 lbs of cooked chicken I didn't use...I may just have to make another batch of this BBQ sauce!  : )

Monday, December 17, 2012

Life...And A Holiday Treat

Like many of you, I spent most of my weekend glued to the news with tears in my eyes listening to the information coming out of Connecticut. As a parent, I cannot imagine the pain and suffering that the families and friends of the victims will face literally for the rest of their lives. Like any tragedy that captures the attention of the country, we tend to find ourselves moving forward and on with life after the initial shock of the events wears off. In the weeks and months to come, please remember to keep the victims, their families and the children and adults who survived this tragic event in your thoughts and prayers as they struggle to move forward with what will now be a completely different life.

On Thursday, I attended my daughter's first preschool Christmas program. Let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than watching a bunch of 3 and 4 year olds dressed up as the nativity while singing Christmas songs. Felicity was assigned the part of an angel in the play and the parents were told to provide the costume. I used an old white tutu that I had made last year at Christmas (the same tutu that Bug wore in this post) and paired it with a white turtleneck and leggings. I had purchased all of the supplies to make angel wings when I ran into pre-made wings at JoAnn Fabrics on clearance for six dollars. Even though I love making things, sometimes it is cheaper and quicker to just purchase the items, which is exactly what I did in the case. I may be a little biased, but I think she is the cutest angel ever, 90's gangsta pose and all! LOL

I finished off the weekend by spending my afternoon making a cute holiday treat for Felicity's preschool Christmas party. I placed three marshmallows on a lollipop stick to create a snowman and used icing to draw a face, bowtie and buttons. I also used one half of an oreo as well as a whole mini oreo to create a top hat for the snowman. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they stay in tact until they are handed out to the class on Tuesday!

I hope you were all able to spend time with your families this weekend...unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind us all that life's little moments are so important. As always, thanks for reading!

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Jennifer Rizzo

Friday, December 14, 2012

Easy (but delicious!) Christmas Cookies

If you're like me, then you wait until the last minute to do things (not unlike this post!).  And during the holiday season when you're invited to 268913 different parties, you need something quick and easy to show up with.  So last year I started making these Oreo balls and everyone loved them.  And here is why I love them: they are only a few ingredients and no bake.  Its a win for everyone!

Here's your ingredient list:
-Oreos (1 whole box)
-Cream Cheese (1 8oz block, softened)
-Chocolate Chips (or any other kind of melting chocolate)

First grind up the Oreos in the food processor. Then mix them together with cream cheese until you have all the Oreo crumbs moist.  Roll them into balls and put them in the freezer (or refrigerator if you have the extra time) for a few minutes.  Then melt your chocolate while your balls are in the freezer. Once they harden a little, dip the balls into the melted chocolate. One helpful hint I've found for melting the chocolate nicely is using my little mini crock pot.  I always burn the chocolate when I do it in the microwave and the crock pot melts it evenly so that it covers the balls smoothly.  Once again stick them in the freezer for a few minutes so they harden. And seriously that's it!

Now you can use just regular Oreos and regular chocolate chips, but here are some other delicious combinations I've experimented:
-Mint Oreos and Dark Chocolate Chips
-Golden Oreos and Milk Chocolate Chips
-Peanut Butter Oreos and Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips
-Double Stuffed Oreos and White Chocolate Chips

Everyone who has eaten these have commented on how big I make them...well that is because I let Bug roll the balls.  Here is what she looks like after making them.

And on another "Keepin It Real" I sit here and type this, Bug is jumping off the couch behind me with no pants and no diaper on.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Live Wreaths

Every year, I want to buy live wreaths.  And every year, I think, don't buy them, I can just make my own live wreaths.  Then, I never do anything about it.  Well, this year, I decided to give it a whirl.  I had Ronnie cut me off some branches from a few pine trees in our backyard to use.  (I've also heard of people using the bottom branches off of the live Christmas tree they buy too!)   I did look at a few tutorials online before I got started, but I wanted to try it my way first.  I just used the branches and green craft wire to hold the branches together.  I think the wreath turned out nice, the only problem is that it turned out bigger than I planned it to be.  But I think it works. 

Next, I used the advice from the tutorials, and bought some wreath forms as a base for my wreaths.  I was surprised to see how much wreath forms are at the craft store, both wire and grapevine forms.  If you're only making one wreath, it's not that bad.  But I was trying to save money by making my own wreaths.  So, I thought, why not go buy already made wreaths from Goodwill, then take them apart and use the wreath forms.  And that's what I did.  Boy did I find some real gems and for only 99 cents a piece! 

I felt slightly guilty and kind of like the Grinch cutting and taking apart the wreaths that somebody put time and effort into making. 

I attached the pine branches to the wreath form using the green craft wire.    I really liked the way it turned out.  It is a little too bushy and unruly, but that's what I like about it.  And I took some inspiration from Hooch's Holiday House, and used burlap ribbon to hang the wreath.

I also used this awesome little trick that I found on pinterest to use a Command hook, upside down, on the inside of my front door to hang the ribbon for the wreath!

I made one more wreath, without a wreath form, and using a different type of pine branch, and it turned out just as big as the first one.  And slightly oval shaped...but I still have it hanging on my house!

Lastly, I tried to make a wreath snowman using the 3 different size wreaths that I made.  While I think it is a cute idea, I don't think it's working out for me with the two different pines and the bottom wreath being so big.  But maybe I'll try this idea out again next year!

Last, but not least, I didn't want the hard work of that Goodwill wreath to go to waste.  So, I attached the santa clauses and gingerbread men to a sweater for Jacob to use for his Crazy Christmas Sweater Day at school!

 Alright, I'm off to fight Round 2 of Sickness vs. The Janicki Family!  Wish me luck!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Buy Handmade!

Last Saturday, my Mom, Felicity and I all ventured into the city for Pittsburgh's "I Made It! for the Holidays" event. The "I Made It!" event featured over 90 local artisans who sold everything from soaps to jewelry. I have to say, the amount of talent in that one space was overwhelming! So today, I thought I would feature some of my favorite artists, you know, just in case you still have some holiday shopping to do. :)

First up is my good friend Amy from Redraven Studios. Amy is a super talented artist who creates jewelry and wedding/home goods using vintage decals and porcelain. She is a newlywed who had the most beautiful wedding I have ever been to...she pretty much hand made every piece of decor at her wedding and it was AMAZING. Check out some of her work below and be sure to check out her shop Redraven Studios.



Next up is Garbella: Handmade Goods and Gear...I personally LOVE the baby onesies and bibs from this artist. She also sells shirts for adults as well as screenprinted accessories. Garbella was also featured in the most recent issue of Food Network Magazine, which is super cool! I have met this artist a couple of times through my friend Amy, and I can tell you she is as nice as she is talented. Make sure you stop over and check out Garbella on Etsy where you will find the items below plus more!



I was first introduced to juNxtaposition at the Market, and I instantly liked everything that I saw. I actually purchased two of her prints and added them to the gallery wall that I have in my hallway. In addition to prints, juNxtaposition also sells jewelry...check out the products below and more by visiting juNxtaposition's online site.



And last but not least is another artist that I found at the Market, Bel Monili...this artist makes jewelry and accessories using upcycled vintage jewelry and materials. I can't wait to order a necklace or one of the cuff bracelets, the perfect piece of statement jewelry. Check out Bel Monili on Etsy!



Be sure to check out the artists above and leave a comment with your favorite's always a great idea to buy handmade!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Stonf's Crafty Christmas

So are you guys ready to see my holiday decorations? After taking tours of Hooch's and B's decorated houses I bet you are super excited to see mine! Well my holiday decor is very different from Hooch's and B's.  I do have nice Christmas decorations, but they are in the scary part of my basement. You know the part with all the spiders, eeeek! I'm too chicken to go down there and get them so I have to make do with what I have available (in the nice part of my basement) which isn't much.  So this year I decided to do some Christmas crafting rather than risk seeing a spider or walking into a spider web.

I had seen ornaments hanging in windows and always thought that it looked so pretty.  The pictures I looked up used a tension rod, but I couldn't use one because of the way my blinds are so I just used those Command hooks and wire.  I bought a big tube of ornaments and tied ribbons to them and then tied them to the wire.  I really like how it turned out.  I might even do this in my front window too!

(It looks better when the blinds are up but the sun was glaring and messing up my picture!)

When I was looking up wreaths on Pinterest I found some pictures of things you could use as alternatives for wreaths on your front door and found this. It looked easy enough to make, and it was.  I spray painted an old black frame white, tied some ornaments to ribbons and stapled them on the back and tied a pretty red bow on the top.

I also made that little Merry Christmas banner.  I just traced stencils on card stock, cut them out and glued the letters to ribbon.  I saw cute banners like that made of felt, but felt is too hard for me to cut!

I'll also share with you my mantel. 

I didn't really craft anything on the mantel, but the wreath above it should look familiar! 

Now to my Christmas craft fail.  I was shopping at Target (where else?) the other day and saw these and these and thought they were adorable.  But I didn't feel like spending the money to buy them when I thought I could easily make them.  I already had Styrofoam balls and trees at home, so all I needed was the sweater material.  I drove over to Goodwill and bought a few sweaters that I thought would work. 

Now I should have inspected the ones at Target better because I had no idea where to start.  I just started cutting and gluing.  It was a mess and none of them really turned out that well.  The trees looked ok, because I eventually realized to use the sleeves for them and that worked the easiest.  Still not the prettiest, but here's what I ended up with.
Ha ha, don't laugh! Its the best I could do.  They are pretty sad looking though! Now the balls...I just couldn't do it.  Every way I tried left something open or it bunched in a funny way.  This is the best one I made and the top isn't even covered!

I think the sweaters were just too big and thick.  Something smaller and tighter like a sock probably would have worked better.  Maybe I'll try again.  Or maybe I'll just go back to Target and fork over the money and save myself some aggravation and fabric glue!

Now on to the good stuff!! To thank you all for being so wonderful, we are hosting a giveaway.  If you want to win a $25 gift card to Target (you can buy a few of those trees and ornaments with that!) just answer this question in the comments of this post: What is your favorite Christmas movie??

The deadline to comment will be this Sunday at 9pm EST. The winner will be picked randomly and will be announced in Monday's post.  And remember to leave your name in the comment if you post using an anonymous account so that we know who you are. Good luck! (This giveaway is now closed)

P.S. My favorite Christmas movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas...or is that a Halloween movie?!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

B's Festival of Trees

The day after Thanksgiving, while most people were out shopping the Black Friday deals, I was at home, getting my house all ready for Christmas.  (*Side note: I have always been a strong believer in waiting until after Thanksgiving before doing anything Christmas.  But as the years go by, I'm finding it harder to resist listening to the Christmas music and putting up our tree before Thanksgiving.)  With Ronnie outside, hanging lights on the house, I was inside working on the trees!  Yes, I said trees, with an S!  Let me give you a little background story.  My love for Christmas decorating definitely comes from my parents.  To this day, I've never seen a more beautiful Christmas tree than the one they put in their living room.  My favorite part of their tree is that they have so many different and unique ornaments, and each one has its own story. (My Dad could probably tell you when, where or from whom each and every ornament came!)  And growing up, my siblings and I each had our very own tree in our rooms that we got to decorate.  I always loved this idea, so I have carried on that tradition with my kids. 

Jacob's tree:  The theme of his tree is "Shades of Blue".  Blue ribbon, blue beads, and blue and silver ornaments decorate his tree.  Who's that angel at the top of the tree?!
Julia's tree:  I was so excited about Julia's tree this year.  Last year, I found all of these adorable candy and gingerbread ornaments on sale at Kohls after Christmas, and the theme of her tree was decided, "Candyland".  Candy canes, gingerbread, ice cream cones, pink tulle and pink ornaments decorate her tree.  (The big pink ornament balls were actually used as decoration at our wedding!)

Living room tree:  We have a 8 ft artificial tree that we use as our "main" tree.  This tree normally has white bead garland, white pearl lights, and all different kinds of ornaments, but I decided to do it differently this year.   This year, I used red berry branches, pine cones, gold ribbon, and red, white, and gold ornaments.  I still feel like it's missing something, maybe big red poinsettias or big red ornament balls.  What do you think?
I made the bow tree topper using gold ribbon.  I used this tutorial, and it was super easy to make! 

Basement tree:  Lastly, what should we do with all the ornaments that we didn't use this year on the main tree?  Well, buy another tree, of course!  I love this little Christmas corner in our basement.  I call these our "Memories" trees.  They include different ornaments from over the last 7 years that Ronnie and I have been married, from Our First Christmas to Jacob and Julia's first Christmases and many more! 

Now you get to see what Ronnie was working on!

Cue Clark Griswold singing, "Joy to the World" as he plugs the lights in! 
(I know the 2 windows are missing wreaths...we can't find them!  We're on our way to buy 2 more right more!)
Ok, so maybe it's not that many lights....but we're not done yet! haha!

I hope you enjoyed the tour of B's Festival of Trees!