2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Every year I have no plans to shop on Thanksgiving weekend, but I guess it’s inevitable. Some deals are just too good to pass up! Here are some material items that have piqued my interest in the last few hours, for myself or others. I realize that Cyber Monday has technically ended, but these deals will most likely stay awhile or at least come back around Christmas.

goods_404921_sub3I’ve been searching for a shorter down coat that won’t break the bank, and this JW Anderson for Uniqlo light down jacket fits the bill. It’s reversible–solid color on one side, tartan on the other–and I can’t decide which way I’d wear it more! 50% off and free shipping at the time of writing.

anf_192827_03_model1Still a big fan of Abercrombie sweaters, and I especially love the look of this one. Trendy, but not over-the-top. I still get compliments when I wear the A&F sweaters I bought last year. The entire site is 50% off with free shipping.

STEVEMADDEN-STEVEN_RAZZI_BURGUNDY-VELVETMule loafers are incredibly popular this year, and this Steve Madden pair appears sensible, yet luxurious. Very versatile. Entire site is 35% off with free shipping.

61ikAJnULvL._SL1000_I got the Amazon Echo Dot for my dad because he already has a nice sound system, but was interested in adding voice control. You could do the same if your friends or family members are in similar situations. 40% off.

H3481_WX0973_m.jpegAutomatically drawn to this top because it’s plaid, but that bow in the back… Game changer. Also, shoutout to this tartan shirt, the first version of which I bought exactly six years ago and J.Crew still sells and sells out of every year since. Entire site is 40% off with free shipping.

SE0017_NNY_BACK.jpgEverything on the Draper James website is insanely charming, but seriously, just look at these mittens! Adorable by nature, but then taken to the next level. Also eyeing these delightful loafers, a collaboration with Jack Rogers. Entire site is 25% off with free shipping.

P21722-PRODUCT_01--IMG_416--788172342Really into chic ponchos, since wearing my sister’s for a day in Mexico City. This reversible plaid version can be dressed up or down. Entire Tuckernuck site starts at 20% off with free shipping.

391331_600_ss_01.jpegPerfectly festive heels for holiday parties. I truly can’t resist little bows, and their placement on the back is slightly more unique than on the toe. These pumps are already marked down, and the whole site is 25% off on top of that.

71873.jpgThis Drunk Elephant exfoliating face mask has excellent ratings all over the internet. Not technically a Black Friday deal, but 15% off if you subscribe. (You can cancel anytime.)

5031400_663.jpegThis Kate Spade sleep shirt is so cute, I would definitely wear it in public over leggings (which I occasionally do with pajama tops anyway). Entire site is 30% off or an extra 40% off sale items.

 

 

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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.

persephone
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.

Holiday Reading

Less than a week until Christmas, I hope everyone’s feeling the joy of the most wonderful time of the year! If decorations or movies haven’t done the trick, how about a book? These short, easy reads, paired with hot chocolate and enjoyed by the light of a Christmas tree, are sure to lift your holiday spirit.

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Christmas at Eagle Pond by Donald Hall

Beautifully written by a former U.S. Poet Laureate, this novella depicts Christmas in rural New England in 1940. The images are practically magical.
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A Rumpole Christmas by John Mortimer

These delightful stories feature a smart and sarcastic barrister, who always ends up playing detective at Christmas time and proves he’s not the Scrooge that others believe him to be.

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A timeless story with a classic character, this book is both exciting and uplifting. Most editions include “other Christmas writings” by Dickens.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

While not completely centered on Christmas, with its themes of family, growth, and moral lessons, this novel will warm the heart at any age.

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Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

This collection of hilarious, yet surprisingly thoughtful, stories is perfect for any real-life Scrooge. “SantaLand Diaries,” the essay describing Sedaris’s experience as an elf at Macy’s, is considered a classic in some circles.

Deck the Halls

My family and I are definitely not as gung-ho as we used to be regarding Christmas decorations. When I was little, we accumulated more ornaments than we had trees, arranged two model train tracks in the great room, and put up wonderful outdoor lighted figures (from Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store!). But since we moved to a smaller house, with less people living in it, our Christmas decorations have become more focused on smaller accents.

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A lot of the decorations that we use now were actually made by my mom the year Beth started college (her first as an empty-nester).

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Wired ribbon can quickly make pretty decorations. It’s easy to shape the ribbon into bows, using thin pieces of wire to hold the loops in place.

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I’m liking the unplanned juxtaposition between the old-fashioned toys and the high-tech “toys.”IMG_0424

For a simple way to lift your holiday spirits, add cinnamon sticks to a pot of water on the stove. The smell is divine!
IMG_0518Not a decoration, but one of my favorite Christmas traditions is mailing greeting cards! It’s just a small, but meaningful way to spread holiday cheer. I always hand-write them while watching Christmas movies or listening to carols.

This rendition of “What Child Is This?” by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is one of my favorites right now. Their voices surprisingly go great together. (Don’t worry about the costumes, which seem out of place.)

My house is all set for Christmas. Now all that’s missing is the snow! At this point, it seems like all of the country has gotten some, except for North Carolina.