I’ve been holed up at my parents in Michigan for the holidays, introducing Archie to snow for the first time and generally checking the heck out, but as 2016 is coming to a close I couldn’t help but reflect on the year on the blog. Here’s my favorite 16 posts from 2016. Happy New Year!
1. One of my favorite projects this year was designing the creative warehouse space called Light Lab. It was a complete blank canvas and I had so much fun bringing it to life. See the full reveal tour here.
2. Another highlight of the year was Archie’s 1st birthday/my 34th. Turns out sharing a birthday with your son can be pretty great and we celebrated with a Johnny Cash birthday bash! See the party post here.
Tick tock, are you New Year ready?! My favorite kind of New Years Eve celebration is one where you dress up all nice but go to someones home. A fancy night in, kind of the best of both worlds right? Last year we hosted just that and this year we are heading to Rupert’s brother’s house to ring in 2017 in similar fashion. Also, it wouldn’t be New Years Eve without a little metallic so when I saw this skirt I snatched it up quick!
We are officially holiday primed here at casa Samuel. Trees, garland, wreaths… check check check. I’ve teamed up with BISSELL to share my top tips for getting your home ready for this festive season.Tip #1 De-Clutter!
I prefer to do my “spring cleaning” just before the holidays, de-cluttering and purging old, broken, or non-loved or non-used items so you can have room for the new (hello Christmas presents) and start fresh in the new year.
This is especially the case with children’s toys. My secret to making sure your house isn’t overflowing with Archer’s toys is to give them a place. We have two baskets, one in Archie’s room and one in the family room, along with the baskets we have a good amount of closed storage in our built-ins in the family room. If the toy storage space starts to get tight I know it is time to get rid of a few.
Tip #2 Deep Clean.
Once the house has been decluttered it’s time to give it a good all over deep cleaning. Give the entryway a good scrub. This will be the first impression when guests arrive. Wipe down your front door, dust in places that might get neglected like the top of baseboards and furniture legs. Carry on throughout the entire house. Give the kitchen some extra love around the oven and garbage disposal and give the bathrooms the full treatment, break out a Grout Pen if you have to. Then give all the floors and rugs a good cleaning.
BISSELL sent me over their CrossWave All-in-One Multi-surface Cleaner to test out and I have to say it is so great for both scrubbing the wood floors and vacuuming up the rugs at the same time, transitioning between the two just means pushing one button. It’s basically a super powered mop + vacuum in one.
Tip #3 Get your guest room ready.
Make up the guest bed with fresh linens and layout clean towels. I like to give the room a little scent with a light room spray instead of a candle as some people in my family are very sensitive to strong candle smells. (p.s. find the DIY for that headboard here).
And Finally, Tip #4 Sprinkle Holiday Cheer (aka decor) throughout the whole house.
Yes, That means even the bathroom is fair game!
I like to have little holiday touches all throughout the house because why not?! The more the merrier and what’s better than a Christmas tree? TWO Christmas trees! We have one small white one in the front of our house and one big green one in the family room. I also went a little wreath crazy this year, but you never see them all at once and since we have artificial trees, having the real wreaths and garlands throughout the house bring in the genuine christmas smell.
Holiday entertaining has to be my favorite kind of entertaining. For some it might feel like there’s added pressure, but I think it actually takes the pressure off! Throw a few wreaths on the wall and you’ve got yourself some instant festive decor and what other time of year is more fitting to throw a cookie party? This year I did both and gathered a few friends to say SKAL (or “cheers” for you non-Scandinavian folk) to the holidays with Absolut Elyx.
While cookie noshing and cocktail sipping I came up with a few tips and tricks to take the stress out of holiday entertaining (to make sure I am able to enjoy a party along with my guests) while still pulling together a few instagram worthy moments, of course.
1. Simplify the Decor:
First, I like to clear away any clutter and start with a clean slate. Then, one easy way to make a big impact is to replace your year-round art with a simple seasonal piece (or pieces). I took down the two large art prints that hung in the space and replaced it with 5 simple wreaths, which I DIYed in almost no time using wood embroidery hoops and fresh greenery. Just wrap individual pine boughs and leafy branches around the hoop with floral wire and you’ve got yourself a modern little wreath. I used the same greenery to make a tabletop garland which anchors the cookie buffet. Using just greenery is a lot easier than attempting a complicated floral arrangement and it brings a seasonal touch… win/win.
2. Streamline the menu by creating a food based theme:
Cookie party! You can’t get much easier than a cookie party. I love baking so I made a few batches from scratch but to make sure I wasn’t stretched too thin, I mixed them in with a boat load of store bought ones as well. Execute a beautiful cookie buffet by utilizing serving dishes or cake stands at different heights. Stick with one cookie type per cake stand to keep it from looking cluttered.
For added ambience, save one batch of dough in the fridge and bake them as guests arrive to fill the space with the fresh baked cookie scent and if your friends are the crafty type you can have a cookie decorating station as a fun activity. Find those cute reindeer cookie cutters in the Elyx Boutique.
Another way to simplify the menu is to offer one (or two) signature drinks. You certainly don’t have to offer a full bar. Choose your favorite cocktail and make a batch right before guests arrive.
I made two cocktails for this party because I thought one paired with the cookies well and the other was just too pretty not to! The first is the cookie’s best friend, called the “snow bunny” (pictured above).
SNOW BUNNY RECIPE: 2 parts Absolut Elyx 1 part Kahlua 0.5 part white crème de cacao 2 parts half and half
Combine ingredients together in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake hard until ice cold. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with freshly ground nutmeg.
Next up is the “holiday cosmo”…
See, I told you… SO PRETTY right? p.s. I substituted the redcurrant in the garnish for cranberries.
HOLIDAY COSMO RECIPE: 2 parts Absolut Elyx 1 part Triple Sec 1.5 parts Mulled Spiced Cranberry Juice* 0.5 part Freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
Combine ingredients together in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake hard until ice cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a string of redcurrants dusted with powdered sugar
*mulled spiced cranberry juice- There are many recipes for creating a ‘mulled’ juice or wine. Based on using a 1litre carton of cranberry juice I suggest a combination of 1 sliced lemon and 1 sliced orange plus the zest from 2 additional fruits combined with fresh grated ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon-all to your taste. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer for around 45 minutes. Be careful not to boil. Strain and chill well before use. Store in the refrigerator and the juice will last for around 1 week. For best results prepare mulled spiced cranberry juice at least 24hrs in advance
3. And finally… cheers! have a drink and relax. Remember you’re not striving for perfection but concentrate on having fun and showing a bit of yourself in the decor. Spend the time laughing over cocktails, not fretting over too many details.
Last Christmas I was the overextended new mother, over zealous relatively new business owner that over committed and the holidays flew by, as they can easily do. I photographed and had printed our holiday cards, I even had Rupe help address and stamp them but somehow they were never stuffed and never sent out! I had meant to write a personal note on each card and it never happened. I said yes to too much and was trying and failing to juggle everything.
This year I vowed to take the time to show Archer the magic of Christmas, to bake cookies, to play holiday music and decorate with abandon, to watch our favorite Christmas movies, to say yes to friends and parties and family, and to send out our holiday cards! So far so good, we have watched Elf, and every Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer movie ever created (Archie wakes up and asks for “Reindeer, Reindeer?”), had a cookie party, seen more of my friends, booked tickets to see family, and am well on my way to having all our cards stuffed and out. Turns out watching reindeer movies can be a very productive time for card stuffing.
We had these photos taken recently by Katherine Rose, who also shot some of Archer’s newborn photos. We even ended up re-creating a couple of the same images from the newborn session, almost two years later. I used Artifact Uprising back then for our birth announcement so I was thrilled to work with them again for our holiday cards this year. I love their minimal designs and that they are all so tasteful. There is no searching through thousands of cards that aren’t my style in hopes of finding one that works.
I also loved AU’s acrylic float frames so much that I had them print and frame the portrait from our photo session, I made sure to get two extra for gifts for the grandparents.