{everyone needs a side of sparkle}


a toast (to the last post in 2011)

Hero Hubby and I are staying put this new year's eve and enjoying the company of some of our neighbors (I'm glad everyone will be walking home - instead of driving) that night for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Of course this is an impromptu mini-fete and I've had to work quickly to put together a casual, yet elegant menu. Fortunately I've been graced with an extended nap-time from Violet (she's rounding out the third hour!) and Laela has been happy to sit in my lap and chew on the lapel of my blazer (guess I won't be wearing that tomorrow night). Anyway, here is my collection of tasty, easy, budget-friendly new year's eve eats and sips. I'm not certain we'll make it to midnight, but I am sure our tummies won't be rumbling when the ball drops! Have a wonderful (and safe) weekend. Cheers!

Hors D'oeuvres:
Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Phyllo Bites
Parsnip Crisps
Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade Toasts
Warmed Olives

Kir Royales
Celebration Fizzies

Bergamot Infused Chocolate Truffles (I have so many of these left from Christmas... they'll be gone soon!)
Lady Fingers
Individual Key Lime Mousses

image via style me pretty
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year in review

2011 was a busy year for many reasons. One of them is the very creation of this blog! Here's my abridged year in review in list format (not necessarily in any particular order of importance).
  1. A blog is born - a Side of Sparkle starts publishing in April
  2. After many false starts, marissab.com is finally live and it's smooth sailing.
  3. Meeting new friends at the park and hanging out with other moms made this year great fun.
  4. A baby is born - we welcomed the newest addition to our family, Laela, on July 6th.
  5. Discovery of adding Pumpkin Spice Blend to my coffee brew makes waking up at 5:30am a tad bearable.
  6. "Bubba" met the recycling bin (finally, after months of coaxing, Violet has forgotten all about her baby bottle).
  7. Reconnecting with old friends was bittersweet as we wished them well on their cross-country move.
  8. Life ended too soon for a friend of ours this winter.
  9. Three dear friends had babies. Welcome to the world, Nathaniel, William and Hannah!
  10. A summer full of beach days and back yard bbq's with Violet, Laela and Hero Hubby was only spoiled by the massive ammount of bugs this summer. That's life on the marsh, for ya.
  11. Finally made concord grape jam this September from all those plump beauties nestled in the vines along our back-yard.
  12. Tasted farm fresh eggs for the first time and I'm hooked!
  13. Read Cat in the Hat over 100 times (yes, I counted).
  14. A long weekend on Martha's Vineyard in the spring
  15. Lots of visits to antique shops and flea markets this summer, which seemed to always involve ice cream cones afterwards - they just make sense together.
  16. Thanksgiving and Christmas spent with the extended family. A gift and a blessing. 
  17. Had lots of fun writing posts and sharing 2011 with you, Dear Readers. Here's to a terrific 2012!
See you next year...

image via love-luck-kisses-cake
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what a week...

...and it's still not over yet. And it won't be - not until the fat, jolly and imaginary (sorry to be a spoiler) man in red, white and black sings "ho ho ho." I generally love all things Christmas, holiday, family and, anything that justifies an alcoholic beverage in the morning and evening (in the same day). This year, however I am feeling just a tad (and I'm being really sarcastic here) pressed for merriment and joy. It might have something to do with the toddler, or the baby, or the business, or that I haven't actually slept soundly since 2008, but nevertheless I am chugging along (the not-so-pretty visual of "chugging along" aside). I'm chalking this holiday season up to getting my "chops" as I manage the many aspects of my life and have decided not to stress out about all the fabulous posts I had planned on sparkly holiday trimmings and killer cheese platters... and didn't get to write. I've shelved my "glorious gifts" lists and "party etiquette" ideas (it's really not polite to double-dip - unless you've already sneezed over the entire shrimp cocktail tray). Instead I'll be reporting from the front lines of x-mas mayhem, melt-downs and malapropisms. My post-holiday line-up will reflect on all the celebrations and hopefully serve up a nice side of sparkle - or, at the very least make you smile.

Merry, merry to all!

image via thebottomoftheironigbasket
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and the winner is...

Sara of Newburyport, MA! Thanks to everyone for participating in the Facebook "Share This" contest. I'll be hosting more like this one in the future, so stay tuned and have a wonderful weekend!
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best chocolate cupcakes ever

I would not make such a dramatic claim if this were not true. Of course, we all have different ideas of what "best ever" really means everything is relative. Since I'm a sweets junkie, I cannot be relied upon to objectively rate baked goods, so I put these chocolate cupcakes to the test by swaying my Hero Hubby to try one (the man does not like sweets, crazy right?!) They passed with flying colors. Thus, this recipe is now filed in the "best ever" section in my recipe book. Try them with vanilla buttercream frosting and you and your sweet (or not-so-sweet) tooth will not be disappointed. My little sweet liked them too!

recipe via SimplyRecipes
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contest extended!

The contest from Monday's post is being extended until Thursday night! Become a fan of Marissa B. and share the post about this contest to enter. Good luck!
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how to win this necklace:

1. Get on Facebook and become a fan of Marissa B. {link located right here}
2. Share the post about our current Rue La La deal
3. Wait until Wednesday morning to find out if you've won!

One lucky gal (or guy) will receive the crystal pompom necklace pictured above for sharing the news about the Marissa B. deal on Rue La La. What's this deal I speak of? Well, it's a $25 for $50 marissab.com voucher and the deal's only up until 12/17 in the Chicago City deals section. You need to be a member of Rue La La (which I highly suggest you do) to view this and other fabulous deals. Better hurry to enter - this contest closes at midnight on Tuesday, 12/13!
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oh, wear! winterize

The temperature is swiftly heading south for the winter around my part of the world. Though I dream of warmer climes, I am always happy to break out my winter boots, hat and gloves. This happy feeling usually only lasts until 1. It gets so cold out that I can't feel my toes, 2. My car gets stuck in the snow, 3. I have to shovel the snow and/or 4. I can't feel my toes while shoveling the snow.

In a perfect winter-wonder-world, I would be wearing this while I experienced all of the above.

scarf | coat | boot | gloves | hat | red crystal earrings
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exciting things at Marissa B.

Aside from all of us having the sniffles and managing the constant low-level chaos of taking care of my two children, marissab.com is going full steam ahead this holiday season. That's no excuse for not posting as regularly, but I hope you'll forgive me when you check out the site and see the great deals being offered on lots of fun and fashionable handmade jewelry! Have a wonderful weekend!

p.s. I almost forgot - use code SB1211 to get 10% off just for being fabulous and reading a Side of Sparkle. Happy holiday shopping!
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move over, June

Someday I will wield a glittery pink spatula while wearing an apron with frilly white trim that nips my waist in and makes me look like a baking goddess while I effortlessly make (from scratch!) cookies in all sorts of ingenious flavors. Someday.... or, perhaps never now that I have found a prepared cookie dough that tastes like it came from the oven of June Cleaver and is made with all natural ingredients. Joy! After a weekend of drunken debauchery (perhaps just a few too many cocktail parties), house chores and general child related chaos, The Hubs and I were ready to relax. It's almost physically impossible for me to relax without quelling my voracious sweet tooth. Since the oven was still hot from having cooked dinner, I decided to pop a few (ok, eight) little rounds of Triple Chocolate cookie dough by Immaculate Baking Co. How liberating it felt to simply break off however many cookies I wanted to bake, plop them onto a pan and bake for ten minutes. Yum! Considering the speed at which we ate these cookies, they could very well be re-named Vanishing Triple Chocolate. Enjoying a treat without having to clean up a cataclysm of batter and bowls was a divine way to end the weekend. No frilly aprons necessary.

image via muffintopmommy
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spice is very nice

Happy Friday, Dear Readers! I must share my latest java discovery: pumpkin spice blend. A week ago I was developing a dangerous habit of buying my morning coffee from a national chain (that will go unnamed) and loving the pumpkin spice variety. Spice is nice, but the quality of coffee at said national chain isn't up to my beloved Peet's. As I was browsing our spice cabinet for something to add to the brisket I was cooking, I stumbled upon a cast-away jar of pumpkin spice mix. Bah, I thought - will I ever use this? Then the proverbial light dawned and I immediately made a pot of coffee in the french press and added about a teaspoon of the spice to the grounds. Hazzah! I had my pumpkin spice coffee made to order with my favorite beans, in my favorite mug, next to my favorite little baristas while we read Cat in the Hat (for the ninth time). 
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