Friday, December 19, 2014

Fun Findings Friday

Serial Podcast:
Well it officially ended yesterday, but if you haven't hopped on the bandwagon, you can still catch all 12 episodes of season one of Serial. I'm normally not a podcast person but after all the hype, I gave it a try and have been hooked since episode 3 aired! The podcast reinvestigates a 1999 Maryland murder and looks into the conviction of high-schooler (at the time) Adnan Syed. Warning: You WILL get hooked!

I love going to the movie theater, but sometimes a movie night in wins because movie ticket + snack prices can burn a quick hole in my wallet (I know you're all with me on this). Well, MoviePass hit my radar this week and seems like an awesome monthly subscription for any movie fan. For $30 a month, you can see one 2D (normal) movie per day (every 24 hours) at a variety of theaters. The Pass isn't limited to one theater/company either, which is awesome! If you plan on seeing 3 movies in a month, you're already getting your moneys worth. Seems pretty awesome to me! They're offering a free 2-week trial so I signed up. I'll let you know how it works out!

Jimmy Fallon Hastags: #ChristmasFail
Jimmy Fallon's segments never fail to crack me up. His report on #ChristmasFail's (as found on Twitter) is no exception. If you're feeling overwhelmed with things to do before Christmas, take a break and have some laughs watching this!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tasty Thursday: Eggnog Snickerdoodles

Christmas is one week from today. Ahh! Parties and other festivities are in full swing, and to celebrate the last day everyone in my department's in the office before holiday vacations, I decided to try a new recipe I found on Pinterest - Eggnog Snickerdoodles! It's been awhile since I've done a Tasty Thursday post, so I'm excited to share these cookies with you today!

What You'll Need (Ingredients):
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or rum extract
1 cup eggnog
4 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix the butter and 2 cups of sugar until the batter is light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Add the cream of tartar, baking soda and salt into the large mixing bowl.
Sift the flour, alternately with the eggnog into the mix. The dough will be thick.

Grab a small bowl and mix 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
Shape the dough from the large bowl into round balls, and roll in sugar and nutmeg mixture.
Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes.

I would like to note that if you're not an eggnog fan, you shouldn't disregard this recipe. It's mostly a snickerdoodle taste with a hint of eggnog. It's not like drinking a full glass of the Christmas drink! I thought they were pretty tasty and they ended up being a hit at the office! I definitely plan to make these again in the future!

What are some of your favorite things to bake at Christmastime?

Read More - Tasty Thursday: Eggnog Snickerdoodles

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Gift Guide 2014: 5 Picks for Stocking Stuffers

Christmas Eve is exactly one week from today. CRAZY! Hopefully you're done (or almost done) with your shopping, but if you're still stressing trying to find the perfect gift, check out my 2014 Gift Guide for some suggestions and my list of some smaller (in size, not necessarily in cost) "stocking stuffer" items below!

A Ray of Holiday Sunshine (Rachel Roy for EOS):
EOS has become my favorite lip balm line this year, and Rachel Roy's A Ray of Sunshine 3-Pack ($6) is the perfect gift for any fellow EOS lover. Normally each EOS pod costs about $4, so this deal is amazing!

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie Tote:
Playing off Sir-Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back," this tote ($15) is awesome for the bibliophile in your life to carry around, you guessed it, more books!

Drybar "Up, Up, and Away" Set:
For the girl on the go, it's important to have a few things handy. Drybar's "Up, Up, and Away" set ($25) includes a few of those - a brush, some shampoo/conditioner, dry shampoo, and detangler!

Bath & Body Works Candles:
Candles are a great gift for just about any person on your list. Bath & Body Works candles ($22) in particular have some of my favorite scents, and often run 2/$22 promos! Plus, the Christmas designs are so adorable!

Last but not least, Tieks. These super-cute flats ($175+) have become "all the rage," making it onto Oprah's list of favorite things and popping up on several blogs. They're not cheap by any means, but seem to be an amazing pair of Italian leather shoes (tons of colors available) that will last for quite some time! Friday at noon is the deadline to order these babies and receive in time for Christmas.

Read More - Christmas Gift Guide 2014: 5 Picks for Stocking Stuffers

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Tunes: Christmas Time

Well, I returned from my AMAZING Europe trip over the weekend (more to come on that) and it's back to reality. Womp. But fortunately, it's my favorite time of year, and my mind is completely blown as to how Christmas is already next week! I'm not sure about all of you, but I feel like there's still SO much to do between now and then! If you're feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and put on some Christmas tunes! 

I've been choosing Christmas songs for Tuesday Tunes this month and this week is no different. I'm throwing it back to my childhood with one of my absolute favorites, Hanson! "Christmas Time" debuted on their Snowed In Christmas album (LOVE!) and is one I've had on repeat. It's not one that gets radio play, but it's definitely one you should add to any Christmas playlist (and it's much more relatable to listen to as an adult). Indulge in your love for Hanson with me now...

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Chatting With Lee Mendelson + A Charlie Brown Christmas Giveaway #5

I'm sad to report that this is my last post with Peanuts in celebration of A Charlie Brown Christmas. I've really enjoyed being part of Peanuts' 50 Years on TV brand ambassador program. Not only is it such a big milestone for the brand, but to be a part of something Peanuts alone is just awesome to me! It's been incredible to talk to and hear from a handful of people involved in the Peanuts specials over the years - and even from the beginning!

The final call took place last week with a name you might be familiar with - Executive Producer, Lee Mendelson! See what Lee had to say below, plus enter for your chance to win one of the newest pieces from Jim Shore's [Hallmark] Peanuts collection!

How did the special come about?

To my amazement, When I called Sebastopol, California Charles Schulz’s name was in the phone book; and I called him and told him I was a documentary filmmaker and wanted to do [a film] on Charlie Brown. And [Schulz] said: “Thanks for the call, but I’m not interested in animation.” [Before I hung up] I asked him, “...did you happen to see the Willie Mays documentary last month on NBC?” [When he answered in the affirmative] I said, “We did that show...” There was a long pause, I’ll remember that pause for my whole life, then he said, “Well if Willie Mays can trust you with his life I guess I can trust you with mine.” And that’s how we got together. So Willie Mays is responsible for A Charlie Brown Christmas. So we did the documentary… and we needed some music. [Vince Guaraldi] was a Charlie Brown fan. He had no money, I had no money. We agreed to a speculation to have him do the music for the documentary [and] about two days later he called… that’s the first time I ever heard Linus and Lucy, which became our theme.”

How was Coca-Cola involved?

I got a call from a representative of Coca Cola. “Have you and Mr. Schulz ever thought about doing a Christmas show?” I lied and said, “Oh, all the time.” And they said, “Well it’s Wednesday so if you could shoot us an outline by Monday we might be interested at looking for a Christmas show.” So Bill Melendez [and Schulz] flew up and we sat down, and in about four hours we came up with the outline for what would become A Charlie Brown Christmas, sent it to Coca Cola, they bought it, and we went ahead and produced the show for the next six months.

How did you and Bill Melendez (the animator) collaborate with Sparky on the script? What were some of your ideas that made it into the storyline (ie, the pathetic Christmas tree)?

The three of us got together. [Schulz] had a done few strips about the school play at Christmas time, so that was going to be the basis of it and he wanted to talk about the commerciality of Christmas and he also said, “We really should tell what Christmas is all about… I think we should have Linus read from the Bible.” At which point, both Bill and I didn’t know quite what to say except to say, “That’s never happened to our knowledge. We don’t think they’ve ever animated stuff from the Bible and Schulz said, “If we don’t do it who will?” I had read something about Hans Christian Andersen’s little fir tree and said, “Maybe we could do something about a tree that he picks out.” Bill said, “We should have a dance sequence with all the famous dances from 60s,” which is that famous dance sequence where each animator had his character doing a different dance from the 60s.

Ditto for the music. We understand you wrote “Christmastime is Here.” How did that come about?

[The show] was too slow and I couldn't put my finger on it and I said to Bill, “You know that opening melody when they’re skating is beautiful maybe we could get some songwriters to quickly put some words together and record it… everybody was busy. I don’t know what possessed me, but I took out an envelope.. and I literally wrote the words on that envelope in about ten minutes. It never changed, it was like writing a poem. We got some kids together and they sang it. Last week we heard that that album passed 50 million in sales in 50 years.

Why did you go with children for voice actors? Afterall, this was rather unheard of at the time, wasn’t it?

That was going to be a big gamble because up to that time adults had done kids voices.

What were the initial reactions from CBS to the special?
We took it to CBS and they didn’t like it. The executives thought it was too slow, they didn’t like the kid’s voices, they said “What is jazz doing on a Christmas show?” They said, “It’s scheduled, but [we’re] afraid this’ll be one and out.”

How about the media? Did it get good reviews when it first debuted?

[A CBS executive said] “We got a guy from Time magazine here, but I don’t think we should show it to him.” I said, “What’ve you got to lose? Show it to him.” He came out with a glowing review, [saying] that the thing should be run every year.

Why do you suppose it was such a huge ratings success when it debuted in 1965?

I swear I don’t have any idea. There were [three] things that helped us: Time magazine reached a huge audience; there were only Three [TV] networks, you only had 3 choices; and TV Guide was kind enough to run a two page or four page spread for us. TV Guide back then had a tremendous impact.

And why do you suppose, 50 years later, that it’s still such a hit?

It’s become a generational thing. I think, first of all, it has all the great philosophy of Charles Schulz. The truths, the philosophy, and the Midwest background he had has been so enduring, and continues on to this day. Certain writers are timeless, he’s timeless. [Second], there’s an innocence in A Charlie Brown Christmas. There are truths in [it] that are as good today as they were then.

Did you think it would be a hit at the time?

We previewed it two weeks before it aired. It looked very slow to Bill and I, and when it was over, Bill and I looked at each other and one of us said to the other, “ Oh God, I think we’ve ruined Charlie Brown.” And one of the animators in the back row, Ed Levitt a famous animator, stood up and said, “You guys are crazy, this is going to run for a hundred years.” And we said to him, “What are you smoking?”

What is your favorite scene?

Obviously, Linus reading from the Bible is something that will endure for years and years. The dance scene was fantastic because it captured all the spirit of the 60s and all the dance moves of the 60s.

What does the special mean to you?

I hear every year that this is the one time that families get together and can enjoy something together. I think Tom Hanks said on one of the interview shows that Christmas doesn’t start until A Charlie Brown Christmas comes on. It’s become such a big tradition over the years, and to be able to bring families together every year, that’s the biggest thrill. And it allowed us to go on to do every kind of show. We did Charlie Brown shows on cancer, on war, on Arbor Day. The networks never told us what shows to do. We had a creative freedom that was staggering. and to have another 5-6 year contract with ABC, who gets 5-6 years? Nobody, except Charlie Brown.

How did Sparky feel about it after it aired?

When the show came on he was thrilled. He was thrilled with the ratings, he was thrilled with the response. He said, “Let’s do some more.” For 38 more years, we did 52 more shows and 4 movies.

I'm excited to give away a piece from Jim Shore's Peanuts collection! Jim Shore is one of my favorite artists and this figurine of Charlie Brown with his Christmas tree is the best! Enter below for a chance to win - good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What does A Charlie Brown Christmas mean to you? 

Disclosure: I was provided with the information and images as a Peanuts 50 Years on TV Brand Ambassador.

Read More - Chatting With Lee Mendelson + A Charlie Brown Christmas Giveaway #5

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fun Findings Friday

Downton Abbey Holiday Gift Pack:
As I spend my last day in London, it's only appropriate to share the Downton Abbey Holiday Gift Pack ($60)! Although this show has been holding a strong fan base for years, I just started getting into it a few months ago. It's much different from most of the other shows on TV today, but I'm loving it! This gift pack with 2 wines, a candle and tea is an awesome "me" gift, one for a Downton episode watching party, or for any Downton fan!

DJ Earworm's United States of Pop 2014
Last week DJ Earmworm dropped the annual "United States of Pop" song, a compilation of the year's top hits. It's got to take some serious time and dedication to pull all of the songs together and string them into a remix that makes sense lyrically, but once again, it's been done! Listen below!

Ellen DeGeneres on Emoji Meanings:
There are so many emojis on our smartphones and although we all have the same thoughts for the most part as to what they mean, there are some that vary quite a bit, especially across age groups. Ellen DeGeneres breaks it down for us in the clip below - so funny!

Read More - Fun Findings Friday

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Gift Guide 2014: 5 Picks for Dogs

Saying my dog is spoiled is kind of an understatement. Sheba's SUPER spoiled. And just because she can't open presents completely on her own with her paws, she's still part of the family and deserves some awesome Christmas presents. And your dog does too! Here are some Christmas gift ideas for the pup in your life!

Bocce's Bakery Holiday Biscuit Box:
Bocce's Bakery always does well by dogs! Their Holiday Biscuit Box ($28) makes for a great little Christmas gift, featuring 3 8 oz. bags of high-quality festive flavored treats. You can always give the whole set as a gift or split it up into 3 separate gifts (depending on how many dogs you're shopping for).

Whistle Activity Monitor:
I'm big on fitness trackers for humans, and why shouldn't your dog have one too!? The Whistle Activity Monitor ($99) tracks your dog's sleep and activity, allowing you to keep tabs whether you're home or away. This is a great tool to make sure your dog's getting enough movement during the day and also to alert you if something's abnormal.

ZippyPaw's Holiday Hedgehog: 
Your dog obviously needs some kind of festive toy, so why not go for the Holiday Hedgehog ($6-$13)?! I'm not sure what exactly it is that makes this toy so adorable, but it's definitely one that would get a lot of play time with Sheebs!

BarkBox ($19+/month) is the classic gift for dogs, sending a monthly box of goodies including all-natural treats and toys. Whether it's one month or a year subscription, your dog will LOVE getting goodies in the mail (Sheba now thinks all the boxes that come in the door are for her)!

Personalized Paw Print Cookie Cutter:
Although dogs can't bake, they're always happy to be the designated taste tester. The Personalized Paw Print Cookie Cutter ($18) is one of my favorite Etsy finds and something that I'm eyeing up as a present for Sheba this year! Dog treats are easy to make and require ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, so when you're baking some human treats, you can whip some doggie ones up too!

Read More - Christmas Gift Guide 2014: 5 Picks for Dogs

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Gift Guide 2014: 5 Picks for Him

Earlier this week I shared my Christmas Gift Guide for the women, and now it's on to what I always find to be the hardest group of people to shop for - the men. Here are 5 suggestions for gifts for the men in your life!

Jawbone UP24:
Fitness trackers are really big this year, and my favorite is the JawBone UP24 ($65)! Not only does it track your activity (or lack of), but it also tracks your sleep and quality of eating. The Jawbone app also personalizes daily messages, helping to encourage you to be more active, eat better, and live a healthier lifestyle overall.

Man Meets Stove Cookbook:
Generally speaking (I'm stereotyping here), guys aren't too savvy when it comes to cooking. If there's a guy that fits that stigma on your list, the Man Meets Stove Cookbook ($14) is a great gift option to help him learn to cook easy recipes that don't require a microwave or a drive-thru!

Speck iPhone Wallet Case
Guys are lucky to not have to deal with lugging a purse around everywhere they go. For them, essentials = phone + wallet. So help them simplify more (and not lose things) with the Speck iPhone Wallet Case ($40). The handy case not only protects the iPhone from damage, but also stores cards and cash in one location!

Mixtape Glasses
For the music fan, this set of 6 Mixtape Glasses ($50) is awesome. They're dishwasher friendly and are able to be written on with a dry erase marker. This would be the perfect addition to an in-home bar or even to pull out for any kind of occasion!

Mophie Powerstation Reserve Micro
Low phone battery is a constant battle. Mophie's Powersation Reserve Micro ($40) is a portable charger for your smartphone that hooks onto a keyring. Since your keys are always nearby, this is an awesome gift that I'm sure will get used quite a bit!

Read More - Christmas Gift Guide 2014: 5 Picks for Him

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday Tunes: Winter Dreams (Brandon's Song)

Happy Tuesday and greetings from the fabulous London, England! Kelly Clarkson's Christmas album came out last year but it's been on repeat lately in honor of the Christmas season being in full swing! Specifically her song "Winter Dreams (Brandon's Song)," has been my jam. It's a song written for her now-husband (hence the Brandon) - a love song mixed with Christmas. So much happiness in it, I love it!

Read More - Tuesday Tunes: Winter Dreams (Brandon's Song)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Gift Guide 2014: 5 Picks for Her

With Christmas just a couple weeks away, there's lots of scrambling to find the perfect gift for the important people in your life. So today I'm kicking of my 2014 Christmas Gift Guide series, starting with 5 gift picks for the ladies in your life!

Kate Spade Bella Bookshelf Thermal Mug:
Coffee is a daily staple for just about everyone I know, making Kate Spade's Bella Bookshelf Thermal Mug ($18) a must have! If you have a bookworm and/or Kate Spade fan to shop for on your list, this is the perfect gift!

Clothing Subscription:
Picking out clothes for someone else can be a tough job. So rather than risk choosing the wrong item, gift a shipment of Golden Tote or Stitch Fix, two amazing clothing subscriptions that do an awesome job of personal styling and getting the most bang for your buck! Check out the Style section of my blog for reviews of both!

TOMS Desert Wedge Booties:
I stumbled across the TOMS Desert Wedge Booties ($88.95) while browsing Pinterest a couple months ago and had to have them as soon as I saw them! Spoiler alert: I splurged. These are hands down the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned, plus by purchasing them, a pair of shoes was also donated to a child in need of shoes. Great buy and under $100!

Kiel's Greatest Hits Collection
One of my favorite haircare brands is Kiehl's and I'm loving their  Kiehl's Greatest Hits Collection ($45) gift set, filled with some of their most popular products in the cutest old school packaging! This is also another gift that gives back - 100% of the proceeds will be donated by Kiehl's to Feeding America!

Dagne Dover Clutch Wallet:
Dagne Dover is a new handbag line that launched last year. And ever since, I've been eyeing their gorgeous line! The Dagne Dover Clutch Wallet (available in several colors) can be worn two ways - as a standard clutch ($135) or a crossbody bag ($165 with strap). The line was created with the modern/organized woman in mind, with a detachable card/cash case, hidden pockets, a lipgloss holder, and a weatherproof body.

Stay tuned for more gift guide posts coming later this week!

Read More - Christmas Gift Guide 2014: 5 Picks for Her