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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Stop These Social Media Practices! (PLEASE)


Being young professionals in the PR and marketing worlds, we are basically FORCED to keep a constant eye on social media and the emerging trends. With our continuous scanning of various social media platforms we have developed our “social media pet peeves.” This post is to plead all of you out there in the online world to help us lead the charge to stamp out the following social media practices:

  • Om Nom Nom, #OmNomNom: I don’t care how you insert this, you don’t say it in real-life (Oh God, please don’t tell me you say it in real-life), so don’t put it online. All I can imagine when I read this is that you are currently shoveling that meal you just shot with the Toaster filter in Instagram into your face and are talking with your mouth open.
  • Linking posts to all your outlets: (Thanks to LinkedIn for already doing their part to stop this!) All social media outlets are different, people! I don’t want to see your hashtag on Facebook. Write different content and stop announcing to the world that you’re social-media-lazy.
  • YOLO: Give it up people, this trend has outlived its welcome.
  • Notes to self: I am not your virtual post-it note. I will not keep your diet on track or give you kudos for your 1,590 mile run that you completed in 1.5 hours.
  • Rambling multi-part tweets: I’m following hundreds of peeps, your first segment probably got lost as I’m scrolling through my feed and now I think you are spurting out incomplete thoughts. If you must do this, PLEASE include some indication that the Tweet is either the first or second or third part.
  • #FF: Really, we’re not over this yet? If I can’t figure out how to follow interesting people through their interesting connections, I don’t deserve their insights.
  • Linking to your blog…that’s about a year old, with no new relevancy or reason: If I didn’t read a year ago, I don’t want this old info now! Update! Make it applicable to a current trend or at least tell me why you are sharing it now!
  • Liking every picture someone posts on Facebook:  You have the ability to like the album. I don’t need 1,000,084 notifications on my Newsfeed that you like Stan’s last trip to Vegas.

If you do any of these, we don’t hate you. Some of the things we do on social media might be just as annoying to some people. What are some of the social media practices you think must end?