Black Friday Traditions

On my way to work this morning I caught my first glimpse of my least favorite part of the holiday season: orange cones.  Darrin and I live near a major shopping mall and as the holiday shopping season intensifies the traffic around our neighborhood becomes ridiculous.  In order to manage the congestion caused by the black friday sales, the mall will control traffic using the orange cones I saw stacked on the corners this morning.

Personally, I don’t like to participate in black friday shopping.  I can’t imagine any sale that warrants fighting crowds or getting up early in the morning.  Of course, I’m also someone who counts being trampled to death in a crowd as one of her 3 greatest fears.  Simply viewing a scene like the one below sends me into a tizzy.  If I was actually present at that store I know I’d go into a full-scale panic attack.

Nowadays the sales are starting earlier and earlier.  Midnight sales are becoming popular.  My sister, a seasoned shopper for sure, participated in the midnight shopping last year and she reported some great savings.  I know that this type of shopping is a favored tradition and lot’s of fun for many people.  It’s just not my speed.

However, this morning as I was driving past the orange cones and instantly started to groan, I got to thinking, certainly with our proximity to the mall Darrin and I could start a tradition of our own.  It’s not so absurd to think that we can’t stay up past midnight, right?  Maybe we should start an anti-black friday party at our house.  We could invite friends over for drinks and late night snacks (or leftovers from the Thanksgiving spread).  Then we’ll open up the curtains and watch the crazy shoppers.  Maybe we can even make a drinking game of it (assuming everyone has a designated driver, of course).  Take a drink every time you see someone steal a parking space from someone else. 😉  We’ve got wifi – our guests can bring their laptops/phones/tablets and can get black friday deals online.  This could work.  Now, I only have to get Darrin on board with this.

What about you?  What post-Thanksgiving shopping traditions or anti-shopping traditions do you have?  Share!


Forget the Figs

I recently attended a lovely party (and I promise to write more on that later) at my friend Renee’s house.  I was invited to bring a savory dish as Renee was taking care of the sweet treats.  And boy did she ever take care of the sweet treats.  She made these petite pecan tarts that were heavenly.  The crust was so light and delicate, and the filling had a sweet syrupy texture – as oppose to the gelatinous goop I’ve seen in typical pecan pies.  After one bite, I proposed to her (sorry Darrin).

When deciding what to make for the party, I turned to my favorite site (say it with me now) Pinterest for a new fall inspired recipe.  I wanted something that felt warm and earthy.  That’s when I stumbled upon the following photo.

Figgy Brie Rolls from Better Homes and Gardens

Doesn’t that look delicious and cozy?  I was instantly interested in what these rolls had to offer, except for the fig part.  Count me out.  I just don’t like figs, unless there’s a newton involved.  So, I started to think, what could I substitute for the figs? Prosciutto?  Sun dried tomatoes?  I adjusted the recipe to fit my own tastes and to my delight, it was a success.  The other party goers ate-up every last roll and (dare I say) loved them!  So, I thought I’d share my recipe with all of you.  If you’d like to see the original recipe (in case you are a figgy-fan), simply click on the photo above to be taken to the BH&G website featuring the recipe.

Mellissa’s Sun dried Tomato, Brie, & Rosemary Rolls

Yields: 16 roles


  • 1/3 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes (use the ones in the bag, not the ones packed in oil)
  • Fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tubes of Pillsbury french loaf
  • 2 oz (at least) brie cheese cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 T water and 1/2 T warm water
  • Kosher salt
Spray a 8x8x2-inch baking pan with oil.  Set aside.

For filling, select a few sprigs of rosemary and chop finely.  (If you like rosemary, chop more.  Just know that a little can go a long way.)  In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, rosemary, honey, and 1/2 T of warm water.

Open both tubes of bread dough and cut into 16 equal portions (8 portions per tube).  Shape portions into a ball.  One at a time, take a dough ball and flatten it.  Place a small spoonfull of the tomato mixture into the center of the dough circle.  Top the filling with a few pieces of cheese.  Fold dough over the filling; twist and pinch to seal.  Place the dough ball, sealed side down, in the baking pan.  Cover pan and let rest for about 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk together egg white and 1T of water.  Lightly brush mixture over the rolls.  Pick off a sprig of rosemary and press one or two (depending on taste) into the top of each roll.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake in preheated oven about 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool in pan on rack for about five minutes.  Serve warm.

I ended up forming the dough balls on the same board where I chopped the rosemary.  This happy accident resulted in some rolls getting an extra infusion of rosemary in the dough.  I might do this on purpose next time.  Also, next time I won’t be so chintzy on the cheese.  Lord knows you can never have too much ooey-gooey brie.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did.  Hopefully you’ll take it and make it your own, switching ingredients for things that work for you.

Countdown to Party Town

Okay, so maybe the title of this post is a little lame.  Okay, maybe more than a little.  I can’t help it.  I love hosting parties and it’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to play hostess.  I used to hate the role of hostess, but something changed somewhere in my early twenties.  I was living with a great roommate (shout out to Jen B.) and our place became a regular gathering spot for our friends.  It wasn’t too long after being thrust into the role of hostesses for small impromptu gatherings that we started having official parties with themes.  One of the parties that still gets talked about in hushed, reverent tones was Jen’s Real World Birthday Bash (remember, we were in our early twenties).  We had fake cameras posted around the room, a faux aquarium (remember how the Real World house’s always had those kick ass aquariums?), and the piece de resistance – a functioning confessional room.  Watching the video from the confessional the next morning was eye opening.

The Real World Brooklyn's aquarium.

But, I digress.  You may recall me mentioning in a previous post that Darrin and I were planning an engagement party.  In addition to celebrating the engagement, we thought we would use the party as motivation to get work done on the house.  I explained to a friend recently that Darrin and I are both creative types and we simply can’t get things done without looming deadlines.  Her response – “I must be a creative type, too.”  Okay, so maybe it’s less creative type and more human type.

While we do have a number of things to get done on the house prior to the party, I certainly don’t want to take away from the excitement of getting to host my family and a few friends for a celebration.  So, to take you on the ride with us in this process, I’ve got to take you back to step 1 – the invitations.

Custom invitations to our party.

You’ll have to excuse the photography – it doesn’t quite do the work justice.  Darrin designed our invitations.  But, it was a true joint effort.  I wrote the copy, he designed the artwork.  The green in the invitation was selected to match the color we painted our kitchen cabinets.  I bought black card-stock and used it as a backing to the main portion of the invitation.  We bought some basic envelopes, but I felt like they were missing something.  While I was standing in line at Michael’s to buy the card-stock, I noticed letter stamps in the dollar bins by the checkout stand.  I found a ‘j’ for my last name and an ‘h’ for Darrin’s last name.  It was perfect!  I then stamped a monogram on to each of the envelopes.

I really love how the envelopes turned out and I’m pleased that we now have stamps for our last name.  I think we’ll be finding more ways to incorporate our monogram into the party decor.

What about you?  What have been some fun party ideas you’ve incorporated into your events?

A Touch of Glass

Over the weekend, Darrin and I received our first wedding gift.  At least, that’s what I’m calling it.  We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon visiting with my parents.  While visiting, my mother remembered a box of “things” my grandma Mary (my mom’s mom) had saved from her marriage to my mom’s dad for my sisters and me.  So I went into the garage with my mom, climbed on to my dad’s weightlifting bench, reached up to the top shelf and pulled down a very dusty box where I uncovered eight glass “Serva Snack” sets.

One of the "Serva Snack" designs.

These were so dainty and adorable.  They were a perfect little treasure, packed away in their original boxes, safe for my sisters and me to use.  One of the designs has a small, curved indentation on the side which I can only suspect was for setting down one’s cigarette when one wanted to take a bite of the provided snack.  I think I’ll have to find a new use for that indentation – chocolate straws maybe?  I’m already imagining afternoon teas, mother’s day brunches, or a bridal luncheon with these charming glass trays.  And don’t think I won’t be able to serve a cocktail in that darling little cup.

While up on the ladder weightlifting bench in the garage we discovered another box.  It simply read on the side, “grandma and grandpa g bar.”  Grandma and Grandpa G are my dad’s maternal grandparents.  Grandma Ginther is the woman I was named after and while I never had the opportunity to meet her, from what I hear, she was an amazing woman.  To reach this box, we had to call in the help of Darrin and my dad as it was pushed too far out of reach.  This box was really heavy and once it was brought to the floor, we discovered it was full of individually wrapped items.  They turned out to be a ton of various bar glasses.

A number of the bar glasses from Grandma and Grandpa Ginther (pre-washing).

Darrin and I were instantly excited when we saw these glasses.  Two of the many things we have in common are: we like things that are old and things made of glass.  My mom very kindly offered the box to Darrin and me noting that Grandma Ginther would have liked the idea of her namesake having her things.  It was such a sweet moment and such a thoughtful gift.

More of the glasses. They really clean up nice!

When we got home that afternoon, I got straight to cleaning the glasses.  While standing over the sink, I let my mind twist around the history of our new collection.  Where did it all come from?  Grandma and Grandpa Ginther ran and owned a few restaurants over the course of their lives.  Had a few of the loner glasses snuck their way home from Alex & Effie’s restaurant?  What happened to cause some of the sets to be incomplete?  If it was anything like my house growing up, the children may have broken a glass or two.  Did a little Joanne (my grandmother) or Bud or Sunny (my great Uncles) have slippery fingers?  Did Grandma Ginther bring the glasses out for parties?  Did she really use the brandy glasses for brandy or did she break convention and use them for wine, the way I would?

And how will Darrin and I incorporate these new gifts into our lives?  Some of the glasses I can imagine using as vases or for serving a yummy frozen dessert.  I do feel as though I’m more likely to have a luncheon simply because I have to give those Serva Snacks a try.

What about you?  What gifts have you inherited?  What have they meant to you and how have you incorporated them in to your life?