Wednesday, November 25, 2015

:: Gift Guide : Comfy Cozy Gifts ::

The Christmas season is upon us!   
Well ...... starting tomorrow.....
 because Thanksgiving is the start of Christmas?
or the appropriate time to start celebrating Christmas and decorating? 
image via nordstrom holiday catalogue 

For the first Little Things Gift Guide, 
I have something warm and cuddly for those cold winter nights,
 both out on the town and at home.

first up, some items to keep you looking fashionable while keeping you warm. 
also, to help hide your bad hair day. 

a throw blanket is the best gift for absolutely anyone - a perfect gift idea for the person that is so tough to shop for. 
the cable knit fleece lined throw below was possibly my favorite purchase last winter.  
a day on the couch being lazy with your DVR is not complete without it. 

and finally, the perfect jammies to lounge in! 

hope you all have a safe trip home to see your families if you are traveling today!! 
or a safe night out if you are counting the minutes until drinks with friends tonight! 

happy black wednesday!!! 

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

:: Italy Travel Diary : Siena ::


I'm back with more Italy info (finally!!!) 

After leaving Venice,  we headed to Tuscany with out first stop in Siena.  
we took the train to Florence, and switched to a Train to Siena.
I had a sandwich at the Florence train station that was so good I didn't understand how something that delicious could come from a place like that. 
We spent two nights in Siena, with one day spent on a vineyard tour of Tuscany in the Chianti region.  

Siena was a great small city that could easily be done in one day/night, but since we were doing the wine tour I am glad we stayed for two.

Our friends had gone to Italy the year before and had recommended the Hotel Athena because of its gorgeous views.
It is located on the outskirt of the center of the city (but Siena is so small that by "outskirt" I mean it was a 5 minute walk if that to Il Campo (center square) and even less of a walk to the Duomo so still in the heart of it all). 
The views from the hotel were simply gorgeous.  Stunningly beautiful and so quiet and peaceful.
These are the views from their restaurant/bar rooftop area.  

I loved walking around and strolling Siena.
Cars cannot drive in many parts of the city, and so you basically stroll little walkways up and down little hills.  It was so quaint and picturesque.  

The first day we climbed the City Tower in Il Campo after checking in and dropping off our things.
Then we wandered around, and to reward ourselves for our hike up a million stairs, we had cocktails outside the Duomo
Then, why stop there, cocktails on our rooftop bar with the gorgeous views.
We saw a sign for a restaurant Va Vine not far from our hotel that said "come inside and see our views" so we ate on their back patio which was gorgeous and then when it got dark and the views disappeared was romantic with twinkle lights and candles.  This was one of the few places the whole trip where the waiters did not speak english, but it was easy enough to order and the food was spectacular.  
We had fried zucchini and calamari, pasta dishes, wonderful steak, and ended with tiramisu that was to die for. 

The next day we went to The Duomo right when it opened, and if you pay 2 Euro you can walk straight up to counter and get a skip-the-line pass.  We walked straight in, and we were the first handful of people to go in that day so it was nice and quiet. 
This was one of my favorite places that we saw in all of Italy.  
It rivals the Duomo in Florence with its beauty : STRIPES. 
We strolled Il Campo and grabbed a bite on the square before heading back to the hotel for our Chianti and Castles Tour

For the vineyard and castle tour, it was a group of 6 of us and we went to 2 vineyards and 2 castles.  
I do not drink red wine….. ummm ever.  Like, never.  But it was still fun :)  
There were older ladies that didnt drink red either and they would drink the tiniest sip and pour the rest in the bucket and I was like ARE YOU CRAZY? DRINK IT! YOU JUST SAW IT IN A BARREL! YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE GRAPES!
I mean….. sometimes I worry about people.  

So for those of you that love Chianti, FUN FACT: it is only a real Chianti if is has the *black rooster* on the label, otherwise it is an IMPOSTER. 

The second winery had a smokin' hot George Clooney type Italian man leading the tasting and I really wanted to make Kip get a picture of him, but instead I silently stared at him while I pretended to just LOVE the different types of Chianti (every time the cheapest one tasted the best to me) and ate the 25 aged balsamic with cheese.  
The balsamic. was. the. best. thing. ever. 

Later that night we walked to a random little pizza place to eat and there happened to be a big race (about a half of a marathon) going on so we sat outside and ate as runners came and went.  There was a big cookout with tables set up too, but we couldn't figure out how or if we were allowed to join in :) All of the "roads" are stone and on hills - I seriously have NO idea how they were doing it.  We had cocktails and saw the final racers making their way down to the finish and it was fun to see the locals and the children cheering everyone on as they ate their ice cream.  It was very much an italian moment that we were so lucky to stumble upon.  

Let the pictures begin !

Right after dropping of our bags, we climbed the tower to get views of all of Siena and the Tuscan hillside
 so sweaty.

The unreal views from our hotel.  This was more beautiful than any views from towers!

Day two, we went to the Duomo.
It was so gorgeous.  The stripes took my breath away!

 The back part of the Duomo that we walked past constantly on our walk to-and-from the hotel to the Campo had these gorgeous, gigantic doors that I loved.

First stop on the tour, one of the castles in the distance

At our first winery

 see the black rooster!?

 the second winery (with Italian George and the killer balsamic) had the most beautiful views!

Even if only for one day and night, I definitely recommend making a stop in Siena.  It was  such a wonderfully quaint Midieval town and different from anywhere else we went in Italy. 

Day One : 
Climbed the Tower
Lots of strolling, shopping, up and down the little roads 
Day Two : 
The Duomo
Chianti and Castles Tour : Two Vineyards and Two Castles 
Everything here was so simple and easy to manage.  
You will need to take a cab from the train station.  There is a little cab light straight out from the station but be prepared to wait for a cab, they come slowly one at a time.  It was a cheap ride, less than 10 Euro.
Food Recommendations
from friends that we never made it to: 
* Osteria Baccon Del Prete  or  Osteria Cice
            reservation required for both – have the concierge call
*La Taverna di San Diuseppe

Our favorite meal of our entire trip (and there were a LOT of meals!) was at La Taverna di San Giuseppe in Siena. There was a savory chocolate pasta dish that I'm still thinking about 4 years later. It's in a beautiful cave like setting too.

And incase you missed previous Italy Posts:

Venice Recap

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:: 50% OFF : Must Haves for the Holidays ::

I have my Italy post for you today (Tuscany!) ,
but I had to share the wonderful J.Crew Factory Sale 
since they are one of my all time favorite places, especially for pieces for the holidays.
Everything is currently 50% OFF
FIVE. OH.   

do you know what this means??!!! 

get kicking and start shopping!! 
my leather bucket bag from J.Crew flew off the shelves, and they have a suede version for $50 in three different colors! 

the sequin skirt and sequin trim sweatshirt are on their way to my doorstep as we speak! 
see more favorites below! 

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Monday, November 23, 2015

:: monday things ::

some random things for the start of Thanksgiving week....... 
striped tablescape? yes, please! 
Thursday my friends and I had our monthly dinner date.  
we decided to go a little fancier and treat it as our early Christmas dinner and we went to the recently opened STK in River North.

It did not disappoint.  From the people watching (like, a girl in a floor length white ball gown and fur coat, WHA?) to the music and especially the FOOD it was delicious.  The service was amazing too our waitress was a dream. 
Of course the steak and mac + cheese and every bite we had were wonderful, but the brussel sprouts salad was seriously one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten.  It was laced with crack or something.  We were obsessed!! 
I have been googling with no luck to find a copy-cat version of the salad.... if any of you know of any, please send it my way! 

I have been feeling the leopard print lately. 
This sweater from Old Navy is so comfortable and one of my new favorites. 
Old Navy is currently having their EarlyBird Sale too with 40% off online! 

I've also been living in this leopard print scarf.  It is a mere $20 and is SO SOFT and the perfect size print. 

with Thanksgiving a few days away
(and even better: a short work-week PREACH) 
I have been loving searching my favorite food blogs and Pinterest for Holiday recipes.
I also watched Ina's 'A Barefoot Thanksgiving' and wished so badly I could eat everything Ina for Thanksgiving!  If I can't have my own mom's cooking, Ina's would be second best! 
the photo of the 11 layer gratin doesn't look as appealing as it did when they were making it on the show, but YUM it looked amazing! 

some other recipes catching my eye: 
I told Kip I wanted to bring these festive Jello Shots to his house for Thanksgiving but he said that was inappropriate.  I mean, psshh okay, whatever.  Their loss. 

so this post was basically all food..... 
I'm now starving. 

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