2016 Holiday Gift Guide

I was too busy watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, followed by the entire Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life series, to do any shopping on Black Friday. And I had no intention of participating in Cyber Monday, until I thought I’d take just a quick peek at the online offers… And now here I am at 4:30 a.m. on the night before returning to work after five days of vacation. Yes, that escalated quickly.

Anyway, as I’m making a wish list for my birthday and Christmas (and, to be honest, things I’ll “gift” to myself), I thought I’d share it here, for anyone who’s interested in today’s deals or would like ideas for holiday gift shopping.

j crew top.jpegThe summer version of this J.Crew top sold out before I could snag one for myself, and I’m determined not to let that happen again this season. The cut and fit are quite elegant, with the festive bow preventing the tank from seeming too formal. Also available un-patterned here.

bootie nordstrom.jpgThese Marc Fisher booties are almost half off at Nordstrom this weekend. Simultaneously classic and trendy, these can easily be dressed up or down. As an added bonus, the pointed toe gives the illusion of a longer leg. Other than attempting to choose from the many color options, these are a no-brainer!

abercrombie-sweaterEver since Abercrombie & Fitch completely overhauled its style last year, its look has become less self-proclaimed “preppy” and more boho-inspired trendy (which makes sense, as its Design and Creative teams now include big names from Lucky Brand, Lucky magazine, and Club Monaco. The entire A&F website is 50% off this weekend, and most of its sweaters, including this split-back pullover, look fashionable, yet equally comfy.

kate-spade-earringI’m a little late on the reversible earring trend, but my enthusiasm might make up for that. It’s actually a mild obsession. But who could resist these Kate Spade reversible earrings? The bow paired with the pearl is simply charming.

tory-burchMajor PSA: The Tory Burch Jolie riding boots have dropped to $207 for this weekend, which is the lowest I’ve ever seen (and I’ve considered getting these for the past five years). I’ve never been a huge fan of riding boots for everyday wear, but I’m not sure if I can pass on such an amazing deal.

amazon-echoIt’s been fun playing with a friend’s Amazon Echo this past year, but it’s probably time to get my own to boss around. (Another great present for someone who doesn’t already own one is a Kindle, which is only $50 this weekend! One of few gifts that keeps on giving.)

f9344_wq0066_mThere are few things I love more than a nice pajama set. I’d been looking for the ideal short-sleeved set for a while. But as soon as I spotted these Madewell flannel pajama shorts and top, I knew my search was over. (I also bought ten other things at Madewell… There is a ton of good stuff on sale right now, such as this top, this silk dress, and these insanely discounted jeans!)

sephora lip.jpgSally and I once split this Fresh Sugar Lip Seduction set, but as it turns out, we should’ve each gotten our own. This perfect tinted lip moisturizer, which I first blogged about three years ago, is still the only “beauty” product I use regularly.

free-peopleI would love to just dive right into this Free People turtleneck sweater. Alpaca wool is light, yet warm, and there are plenty of colors to choose from. The length is optimal, as well.

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And finally, for the discerning reader, an unparalleled gift would be a monthly subscription to Persephone Books, a publisher that reprints neglected works by mid-20th century women writers. There is no Black Friday sale for this because Persephone Books is, in fact, British.

Making a List, Checking It Twice

The last few days have mostly consisted of reading Christmas stories and watching Christmas movies, so nothing too eventful. However, I did get to cross off two items on my 101 in 1001 list!

I can still recall the first time I ever tried peppermint bark, which was at a house I stopped at while caroling with a high school club. The classmates I was with probably wouldn’t even remember that we received some that night, but I was particularly excited because it was the first time I’d ever heard of it. Christmas cookies are great and all, but sometimes the dough is too much. Peppermint bark just skips to the good stuff–plain white chocolate and peppermint. Sensational! Since then, I’ve bought the popular Williams-Sonoma version, which is fantastic, but since I mostly prefer white chocolate, I decided to make it myself.

The recipe, with two ingredients, is obviously simple. All I did was hammer one bag of peppermint candies (the store had run out of candy canes) in a Ziploc bag to yield about one cup of crumbs. Then I melted two bags of Nestle Premier White morsels in a double boiler, poured the melted chocolate onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet, sprinkled the candy crumbs on top, and refrigerated everything for 45 minutes.

IMG_0716It looked pretty and tasted perfect, but I didn’t get to eat much because my mom took almost all of it to church. I’m glad others got to enjoy it, though, and maybe it was the first time for some, and they’ll get to remember the first time they ever had peppermint bark! So with that, I crossed off #37 on my 101 in 1001 list.

Yesterday was my 25th birthday, which Beth keeps saying is a milestone, but it felt like any other birthday to me. However, I started going to a new church with my mom a month ago, and while the church is big, the early morning traditional service is in a small chapel, which contains an organ. I wouldn’t have expected anyone to play it for such a small service, but someone does each Sunday. At yesterday’s service, when it was time to sing a hymn, I didn’t know which one it was beforehand, but the organ started to play the intro, and I almost gasped when I realized it was “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.” I love all Christmas hymns, but “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” is one of my absolute favorites, and it’s especially gorgeous on the organ. This might sound corny, but I knew this song being chosen yesterday was a birthday present from God, and it was, at 9:15 in the morning, the best part of my day.

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Later, my family celebrated at the 1895 Grille, where I had my usual birthday dinner of filet mignon and two desserts, so that was great too!

IMG_4886Mom and Dad! (Beth did not want to be pictured in this post because she wore the same outfit she’d worn on Thanksgiving.)

Do I have a Christmas birthday? Yes. Would I want to change it? No! It’s not a coincidence that I was born on a day during my favorite month, during my favorite season, near my favorite holiday, a day that describes my interests (22 = two-two = tutu), that sometimes falls on winter solstice, in a time during which my favorite music is constantly playing, and people make an extra effort to be kind to one another… And if my birthday must be overshadowed by someone else’s, I’m happy it’s Jesus Christ’s. (And I’m comfortable saying this, even though I’ve received combo birthday-Christmas presents before…)

Today, I decided that my fingernails have finally reached my goal length. I started taking violin lessons when I was three, so I’ve always had short nails. (Violin teachers tend to clip students’ fingernails if they’re too long.) But it was around the fifth grade when it became a habit of mine to pick at them until they were just before (sometimes accidentally past) the point of bleeding. Whenever I wasn’t doing something with my hands (during a lecture, watching a movie, etc.), I would just pick at them. Eventually, the feeling of the edge of my nails touching anything really creeped me out, so then I’d actually need to pick or bite them until they were back to the limit. Anyway, since my fingernails have always looked weird since then, I thought I’d try and grow them out because I’m an “adult” now and should probably have nails that look “normal.” I kept trying, but had to clip them back down again because that feeling of the edge of my nails touching things was seriously freaking me out. Then, I discovered Essie After School Boy Blazer, which I’ve featured in my Friday Fancies, and tried to use that as motivation to quit picking at my nails. It really was the first nail polish I’d bought since the third grade. One time, in the tenth grade, I painted my fingernails purple, but they were so short, they looked like either grape candies or alien heads. So I never painted my fingernails after that. I only used gifted nail polish for my toes, though that could be a separate story altogether (dancer’s feet…). Anyway, my nails grow pretty fast, so (after multiple attempts) it only took a couple of weeks for me to cross off #53 on my 101 in 1001 list.

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Don’t mind the botched paint job. I’m clearly out of practice when it comes to painting nails. (Seriously, can anyone do this in a reasonable amount of time? Or does everyone just go to a salon now?) I do love the Essie color, which is closer to navy in person. But we’ll see how long these longish nails last… The nails touching things still drives me crazy. (Probably a psychological issue?) The nail polish does buffer the “shock” a little, though.

I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful Christmas! I’ll leave you with my favorite Christmas Youtube, featuring the King’s College Choir singing “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.” The little boys are adorable, the sound is amazing, and the actual music is literally breathtaking.

Dear Santa…

This week, I’m forgoing my usual Friday Fancies to share my Christmas (and birthday) wish list. Perhaps you’ll find some ideas for yourself! (It’s never too early.)Christmas Wish List

1. Ferragamo Varina flats – The most perfect shoe on Earth.
2. Kindle Paperwhite – I’m finally willing to trade in my ancient model for this.
3. Vineyard Vines Tartan Bow skirt – Elegant, yet cozy. The epitome of winter attire.
4. Anthropologie Lavish collar – Thrilled to see so many great fur wraps this year.
5. Tory Burch Jess boot – Love the equestrian-influenced metal detail.
6. Kate Spade Skinny Mini Bow Ring – Adorable. Like an ornament for a finger.
7. Kate Spade portable charger – Clever, as always.
8. T-Fal ActiFry – Makes fries with just a spoonful of olive oil. Enough said.
9. The Wes Anderson Collection – The first official book about my favorite director.
10. Barbour Beadnell jacket – Utilitarian style in a sophisticated fit.

Happy Birthday, Beth!

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In honor of my youngest sister turning 22 today, here’s a throwback to the time when Beth had “Elvis hair”… And when Lisa and I couldn’t pronounce her name correctly because the “th” sound was too difficult. For years we called her “Bass” and confused everyone.

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Also, throwback to the time when I was always camera-ready… Oh, wait. I still am!