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I don’t follow fashion trends, but this year I couldn’t help noticing that buffalo plaid is the “in” thing. It’s made its appearance at Target, Gap, Eddie Bauer, and everywhere in between! I’ve been so intrigued by this bold, chunky, and rugged plaid pattern, that I decided to feature it in my next Designer’s Sketchbook. To me, buffalo plaid conjures up images of a rustic log cabin in a snowy forest, a cozy blanket, flickering candles, and mugs of hot chocolate. Featured here are all the essential items for the perfect winter retreat, inspired by one crazy pattern – buffalo plaid.

1. Buffalo Check Peacoat – I looked high and low for the perfect representation of buffalo plaid, and I finally found it with American Eagle’s warm and wonderful peacoat. I can just picture slipping into this coat and tromping through the snow to gather more firewood for a cozy evening by the fireplace.

2. Plaid Flannel Pajama Pants – After a long day outside, there is nothing better than a pair of comfy pj’s! This set by Eddie Bauer is pre-washed, brushed for softness, and features adorable satin edging at the pocket and cuffs.

3. Chippewa Chestnut Moccasins – Keep your tooties toasty in these lightweight leather moccasins. They are handmade in Ely, MN (my hometown!) and are available in four colors (Maple, Chocolate, Black, and Chestnut).

4. Log Cabin Retreat – For a memorable winter getaway, escape to a secluded log cabin in the woods. Be sure to rent one with a wood burning fireplace! Ely Lodging is a great place to start your search for a cozy cottage. Of course I’m partial to this small town in northern Minnesota (because I grew up there), but truly, you won’t be disappointed by it’s charm and beauty!

5. Paddywax Cranberry Fig Candle – Nothing is more romantic than an evening chat by candle light. Fill the air with the warm, holiday aromas of cranberry, cassis, and fig. Paddywax candles are high quality, hand poured, and all natural!

6. Longstitch Pocket Journal – A weekend in the woods will inevitably bring about much contemplation. Record your thoughts, goals, and ponderings in this handmade leather journal.

7. Twig Pencil – Need something to record your musings with? Fill the pages of your journal with this adorable and humorous “twig pencil”!

8. Chocolate Mug – Warm your insides with a steaming, hot beverage (for suggestions check out my Top 5 post from last week!). Serve it up in style with this stoneware mug from Crate and Barrel. Perfect for a cup of hot cocoa!

9. Thermos – Fill your mug from this classy and practical stainless steel thermos from Cabela’s. It will keep your coffee, cocoa or cider piping hot, and it even has a great easy-pour lid!

10. Chunky Hand-Knit Throw – Light the candles, and snuggle up with your sweetie under this plush, cable knit blanket. It has all the comfort of your favorite sweater, and is as beautiful as it is cozy!

Top 5 {Warm & Tasty Winter Drinks}

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This is about the time of year when the temperatures in Minnesota plummet, and I go in search of a cure for that “perpetually frozen” feeling. There is nothing like a hot, yummy beverage to warm your heart (and thaw your body from the inside out!). Thus, without further ado, I bring to you my “Top 5 Warm & Tasty Winter Drinks”!

(1) Caribou Coffee’s Hot Apple Blast :: This warm and wondrous beverage ranks #1 for me. It’s simple, but surprising… no other apple cider comes close to comparing. Caribou Coffee really knows how to blend up the perfect mix of spicy apple cider, caramel, and whip cream!

(2) Ghirardelli Premium Hot Cocoa :: Taking hot chocolate to a new level, Ghirardelli makes one mean cocoa! I love the rich and creamy flavor, and the decadent taste of chocolate goodness in every sip. Available in four varieties (double hot chocolate, white mocha, chocolate mocha, and chocolate hazelnut).

(3) Tazo Organic Chai :: There is just something about drinking chai that makes me feel like I should be wearing a trendy parka and sitting in a coffee shop in Tahoe or Aspen… it’s so very HIP! I love the spicy flavor, and the way it strikes a near balance between “soothing” and “awake”.

(4) Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte :: I’m not a coffee drinker, so for a latte to make my Top 5 list of warm beverages, it HAS to be good. I love the hint of nutmeg, cloves, and pumpkin-y perfection in this drink. It reminds me of Thanksgiving, crisp autumn days, and that first snowfall.

(5) Celestial Seasonings Chamomile Tea :: After a long day, there really is nothing better than a hot mug of herbal tea and a good book. I personally love chamomile tea because it’s caffeine free and makes a lovely bedtime beverage. The subtle hints of floral and fruit aromas calm and satisfy.

Tradition {Christmas Morning Breakfast}

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For the month of December, I chose to write about a favorite Christmas Tradition in my family; our annual, and highly anticipated Christmas Morning Breakfast. Started by my wonderful and creative mother, this tradition has continued through the years and taken on a life of it’s own. Some of my earliest Christmas memories include tearing open presents and then sitting around the dining room table in my jammies to a fabulous and extravagant breakfast… french toast, muffins, eggs, quiche, and all the fixin’s. Ironically, I have come to associate this as our “Christmas Meal”, even more so than even a Christmas ham or turkey!

Through the years, our breakfasts have ranged from small, simple meals, to decadent and scrumptious brunches. However, one thing has remained… this meal, shared by my family, is an icon of “our Christmas”. It is a ritual that is uniquely ours, and something that we do together, each year. A wonderful, memorable, and fun tradition.

Lovely in the Country {Sunday Afternoon}

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There is no better way to spend a quiet weekend afternoon, than to take a walk through the forest on trails laden with snow. The air is crisp, snow crunches underfoot, and the woods are transformed into a winter wonderland. As the sun sets, the forest lights on fire with hues of orange and red, and magic is born. The moon is rising in the trees, and the calm quiet soothes your soul as you are both rested and recharged for what is bound to be a busy week ahead. Top off your Sunday afternoon walk with a warm cup of cocoa by a crackling fire.

If you’re not sure where to begin your journey, start by checking out Explore Minnesota’s list of “Adventure By Foot” hiking tails.

Thrifty Thursday {Handmade, Home Cooked}

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With Christmas right around the corner, I know we’re all thinking about finding the perfect presents. The items I chose for this week’s Thrifty Thursday are both practical and fun, and together they make a charming gift (that keeps on giving!).

The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook is my mom’s go-to, standby, reference-for-everything-around-the-kitchen, and it’s chock full of good recipes, tips, and time-saving tricks. Snag a used copy on Amazon for only $7!

For a smashing presentation, wrap the cookbook in some simple brown craft paper, and attach a handmade wooden spoon to the top with a bit of twine. I actually collect wooden spoons, so they hold a special place in my heart, but it’s a known fact that every cook needs a good quality “work spoon”. Pictured is the 12″ Right Hand Spoon from Alleghany Treenware, which will only cost you 14 smackeroos! Check their site for a huge line of handsome and handmade products.

So there you have it… a perfect gift that’s thrifty for both the giver and the recipient (think of all the bucks they’ll save by cooking at home instead of eating out!). Happy Shopping and Happy Giving!

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