DIY Christmas


We’re poor. Like the “just starting out, eating Ramen noodles” kind of poor. We really wanted to get in the Christmas spirit this holiday season without spending too much money. In our ideal world we would’ve hit up the Apple store and bought 50 iPad Minis for all our besties, or possibly even some Swarovski-bling. However, that is most definitely not the situation we are in. So, in order to cover all the holiday giving for our super awesome group of gals, Nicole and I decided to throw a holiday party – DIY gifts included.

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We had fist practiced our DIY holiday gift with painted mugs†. Each of us had 6 mugs we dotted, and swooshed, and painted in all kinds of fun ways. Then the question of WHAT TO FILL THE MUGS WITH arose. After perusing Pinterest for a bit we landed on the idea of Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix†. Coupled with a shot of Kahlua from BevMo and a cute ribbon these gifts were done!

Source: penniesonaplatter.com via Blake on Pinterest

Now back to the party planning details! We wanted to have everyone leave our party with a favor and we decided that painting 2o Dollar Tree wine glasses was the PERFECT idea! 5.5 hours later*, we decided we may have taken on more than we could handle. However, the glasses came out adorable and once we came to the conclusion that the beauty of hand painted glasses are the small imperfections on each one, we loved them. When party night rolled around, I wanted to make sure we were really in the Christmas spirit (and we had something for our guests to drink out of their new glasses), so I decided to make mulled wine! I found Ina Garten’s recipe (pinned below) but we modified it a bit†.

Source: foodnetwork.com via Blake on Pinterest 

All-in-all our DIY Xmas turned out fantastic. We had cute gifts to give everyone and even received a few during the white elephant exchange!

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† Recipes and the modifications we used:

PAINTED MUGS/WINE GLASSES

A big thanks to Little Miss MBA for the inspiration on this one.

Our 20 hand painted beauties.

Our 20 hand painted beauties.

  • Glass Mugs/Wine Glasses
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paint Brushes
  • Q-Tips
  • Wine (Optional)

Take the mugs/glasses and clean them with the rubbing alcohol (this gets stinky!). Now set all your inhibitions aside and paint those suckers. We decided our fav pattern for the season was red, green, and white dots made with the Q-Tips. Drink wine as needed to get you through this process. Remember, they’re not all going to come out perfectly, that’s the beauty of DIY Christmas!

SALTED CARAMEL HOT CHOCOLATE MIX

  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract – No modification here but this is still the most vanilla extract I’ve used in one recipe.
  • 1 1/2 cups good quality Dutch cocoa powder – We ended up using an entire Hershey Cocoa box plus a little extra. Yea, yea, it’s not “Dutch” but we figure if you don’t like Hershey you’re not deserving of our delish mix.
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons fleur de sel or good sea salt (My preference is 1-tbsp) We had no clue how to find this, so we used store-brand (plus, we’re on a budget here!). ONLY USE 1-TSP!!!! PLEASE! Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
  • 1 cup dry milk powder – WHERE THE HECK can you find dry milk powder that does not come in 1,000,000 lb packs? We ended up using powdered coffee creamer – at $2.24 it was a much better deal
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar – And the Dollar Tree comes through again! We used almost double this amount 😉
  • 10 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips – We splurged on the chips. Ghirardelli all the way.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Heat the 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar in a large heavy pan, over medium heat, without stirring. When the sugar begins to melt, take the handle of the pan and swirl it to melt without burning. The sugar might seem to crystallize, but it will eventually melt to a deep amber color. (Can take 10-15 minutes, so be patient.) This took WAY longer for us – be prepared.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the vanilla. Whisk the caramel until smooth again, then immediately pour it onto the lined baking sheet. Allow it to spread without touching it. Set aside and let the caramel harden, at least 1 hour.

When ready to make the mix, use the back of a large spoon to tap the caramel several times into small broken pieces that can fit into the feeding tube of a large food processor. Turn the processor on, and while running, feed the caramel pieces into the tube so the processor pulverizes the caramel into a fine powder. Continue to add the pieces, a few at a time, until it is completely powder (a cloud of caramel dust will float out of the tube). Turn the processor off and follow the next steps to complete the mix. As usual I didn’t read the recipe fully when we started to make this…I don’t have a food processor. This was an excruciatingly long process with my immersion blender and various attachments.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the chocolate, into the food processor with the caramel powder. Replace the lid and process until smooth. Add the chocolate to the bowl and process again until the mixture is a fine powder.

Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place for up to one month. To serve, stir 3 tablespoons mix into 1 cup hot milk.

MULLED WINE

Ingredients (we doubled the recipe)

  • 4 cups apple cider – We used 6 cups instead of 8, anymore and we thought it tasted too apple-y. Go figure.
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon – We used 2 bottles of a Cab (more wine – happier party attendees!).
  • 1/4 cup honey – We only used 1/4 cup for the doubled recipe, I don’t like things too sweet.
  • 2 cinnamon sticks – I LOVE spices, I threw in 5.
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced – We stayed in line and used 2 for the doubled recipe I now want a fancy zester to add garnishes.
  • 4 whole cloves – Trader Joe’s did not have cloves so we didn’t use any out of pure laziness on my part of not wanting to hit-up another store.
  • 3 star anise – EWWW I hate the licorice flavor, I left these out too.
  • 4 oranges, peeled, for garnish – I just used the 2 oranges I had to squeeze – again, I need a fancy tool to make ganish.

Directions

Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs, add an orange peel to each and serve. <– Forget that. Throw it in a crock pot and forget about it!

*I may have deluded you all a bit here in order to make the story better. The 5.5 hours included painting all of the 20 wine glasses, making the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix and packaging said mix.
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Halloween Hubub


Homemade witch costumes…Gotta love the awkwardness.

While romantically drinking champagne and brainstorming blog ideas we began discussing the upcoming Halloween holiday. As children we LOVED Halloween and ALWAYS had the most kick-butt costumes, none of those cheesy store-bought outfits, ours were handcrafted masterpieces that stood out from the crowd (to see proof of our amazing abilities – strongly influenced by our mothers – we included some pictures for reference). However, while discussing this Halloween we came up against some difficult questions: are we too old for Halloween? How can new professionals incorporate a costume into the workplace?

ISSUE 1: Halloween Age-Appropriateness

This is the second time in our lives we have had to re-evaluate our Halloween practices due to our age. The first time around we had to determine when was the right time to STOP trick-or-treating. This time we must decide the right time to STOP dressing in super revealing outfits.

A few years ago we did Day of the Dead faces.

We’re 24 and 25, not super old, but not still undergrads, we’re not super fit but not hideous, we still like to go out, but are past the point of drinking just to get drunk. What do we do? Every time we look at the costume stores the outfits are divided into super slutty or long-sleeved boringness – we don’t want to look like grandmas, but we like our tushes covered. Plus, the most important issue is our situation of being broke-as-a-joke. These slutty costumes can cost $70+ buuuuut are more likely to get you free drinks at the club (which here in San Diego can be upwards of $13 a pop) – so should we be calculating our break even point?

ISSUE 2: Halloween in the Workplace

In thinking about this issue, one of our favorite TV shows, Modern Family, popped into our heads. Did you happen to catch the episode when Mitchell is stoked to wear his elaborate Spiderman Halloween costume to his new office and then quickly regrets his decision? If not, watch the clip here. That’s the situation we’re afraid of. Co-workers are telling us that they will be in costume but what if people don’t dress up at the office? What if we end up hiding out in the bathroom? Our thought was to go as something very understated, but again our whole being-poor issue gets in the way: we don’t really have money for TWO costumes.

ISSUE 3: This Post Made us Confused

So what do we do blogosphere? We need help here! We have no costume ideas even in the hopper and the 31st is looming. Please leave any ideas in the comment section or feel free to Tweet us at @blakedelhoyo or @lee_nicole

What to do When Your Friend Gets YOUR Dream Job


Yup, that just happened. Even if it’s not your EXACT dream job, it seems like it. They just signed on for a full time gig: salary, benefits, cubicle, coffeemaker in the kitchen, all that grown-up job-y stuff.

What do you do? In one way you’re happy for them, “Yeah, they’re my friend… Good for them… The economy must be picking up, I’ll get a job in no time… This means I’ll get better Christmas presents…” (obviously my mind wanders, my train of thought is often exhaustingly annoying). But, on the other hand, that little devil on your shoulder is screaming, “WHY NOT ME!!!!” Often, you have gone through school with these people, attended the same networking events, applied for the same positions, and all you can think is, “Aren’t I just as good?”

Instead of giving you all the obligatory, encouraging “your day will come” statements, I plan on giving you some advice you can actually use. You have to keep in mind that although they have started a bit ahead of you, they are still your peer and you may need to call on their help and connections one day, so you must keep the relationship a good one.

Generally, I have discovered that a hearty congratulations will usually suffice in this situation, but how you look when you hear their exciting news is what it really comes down to. It’s all about how you control your facial expressions.

Acceptable “Happy” Faces:

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A pained face of happiness is ok, as long as you can hold it.

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Try for a truly happy face – this is the hardest but most fail-safe method.

Stay Away From These:

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Don’t do this face – I mean look at it, it’s hideous.

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I love a good eye roll as much as the next gal but this will not keep your contacts intact.

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DON’T CRY! Hold it in, whatever you do, hold it in until you get in your car/home.

If you keep your face plastered in one of the first category expressions, you’ll probably make it out of the situation with most of your dignity intact. Immediately following the interaction you need to calm yourself down and get back to basics, this usually will require either a beer or glass of wine. However, I highly encourage you to politely decline to grab celebratory drinks with this person, lest you embark upon an alcohol-infused evening of explaining to all the patrons of the bar that someday you will make it too.