2021 Gift Guide

I got some Gilbert jewelry last year, which I really liked, and this Smiley Necklace is also adorable. Would definitely put a smile on someone’s face! The entire Gilbert site is 20% off.

I haven’t seen a ballet wrap sweater outside of a dance studio since low rise jeans were popular. Now that high waist pants are in, I bet this Spiritual Gangster Ballet Rib Wrap Top would look sleek. And it’s reversible! Shopbop is currently up to 50% off (with 6% cash back from Rakuten!).

Love the modern take on a classic that is the Nisolo Emma d’Orsay Oxford. So smart, and they’d go with anything! The Nisolo site is currently 25% off (with 15% cash back from Rakuten!).

I asked my sister, who has tried pretty much every skincare product on the market and does all 10 steps of the 10-step Korean skincare routine on the daily, what was the one product she would recommend. And it was the Innisfree intensive hydrating serum. The entire Innisfree website is currently 25% off. She also highly recommended the Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, which is currently being sold alone and as part of this Super Volcanic Mask Set–an incredible deal! In addition, these purchases come with a bunch of free gifts!

I often put pajamas on my gift guides because I love them and live in them and sometimes go to brunch in them. But truly, nice pajamas are one of those things that people can really enjoy, but usually don’t buy for themselves (unless there are major Cyber Monday deals…!). The Eberjey Gisele PJ Set looks so comfy and cute, and the entire site is currently 25-40% off (with 15% cash back from Rakuten!).

I got this Rains Long Jacket for my mom’s birthday, and she’s worn it a bunch, despite the fact that North Carolina didn’t get much rain this year. The long length is chic, yet super practical. No discounts, since it’s a smaller Danish brand.

I’ve always been a fan of perfume and scents in general, even when I was a kid. Not too long ago, I was wearing Jo Malone Wild Bluebell when I walked past someone who said, “oh, that’s what perfume is supposed to smell like that.” And I think that sums up Jo Malone perfectly. I’m currently recommending Wood Sage & Sea Salt for a neutral, yet distinctly happy scent. Jo Malone is including free gifts with purchases (with 15% cash back from Rakuten!).

The Vegamour GRO Revitalizing Scalp Massager would make a great stocking stuffer for anyone on your gift list. Relaxing, while also stimulating the scalp and boosting hair growth! The Vegamour site is currently 35% off (with 15% cash back from Rakuten!).

Personally, I am still undecided on The Nap Dress, but I do like the Hill House Bea Jacket very much. The Hill House Home site is currently 20% off.

I have not tried anything from Bala, but their marketing has got me intrigued. The Bala Bangles, which weigh 1-2 lb each, can supposedly be worn all day for a constant resistance. Maybe worth a shot if you’re like me and find normal workouts extremely inconvenient. The Bala site is currently up to 30% off.

Where to begin with my sunscreen journey… I’ve never been one to wear sunscreen daily, which literally everyone (family, doctors, the internet, etc.) recommends. It was even difficult to remember putting on sunscreen when I knew I’d be outside all day in the sun. I knew I was pushing my luck, riding the genetic wave of my mom’s side. Something about sunscreen just bothered me–I think it was a combination of the smell, the residue, and the fact that the big labels are cheap and scream “CARCINOGEN.” Then last year I was constantly getting sunburnt from working outside every day with my horses, so I bought this EltaMD sunscreen after reading about it on a blog. It was fine, though the biggest motivating factor for me to use it was likely the price tag… Sometimes this tactic works, but other times even that is not enough! A few months later, Glossier released a “sunscreen for people who hate wearing sunscreen,” aka me. I loved that it was a clear gel that left zero residue–it didn’t feel like sunscreen at all! I was so sold on Glossier’s that I ignored the increasing number of friends and family who raved about Supergoop! I just assumed it was another crazy Gwyneth Paltrow product. Until I ran out of Glossier and needed to buy new sunscreen asap for a trip. I casually went into Sephora–a store I hadn’t been inside in roughly three years–to test Supergoop! sunscreens… And I was blown away. Seriously, the Unseen Sunscreen is wild. I cannot understand how it is invisible, yet matted, and lightweight, yet velvety. I actually enjoy wearing it! The entire Supergoop! website is currently 20% off (with 15% cash back from Rakuten!). I’m stocking up on Unseen Sunscreen, as well as this full on jug of the PLAY Everyday Lotion, which is also amazing. Highly recommend for everyone on your gift list!

Attention: I am finally coming out of my exclusively Madewell jeans cave! Trying the Everlane Japanese Denim Cheeky Jean, which people seem to love. (Japanese denim is so hot right now.) Everlane jeans are currently 25% off (with 15% cash back from Rakuten!).

I’ve pretty much lived in Jack Rogers and platform Tevas for the last decade (but especially this past year, since most of my other shoes are still in storage). I love the extra height on the Teva Flatform Universal Mesh Print, and the colors and strap design are very cool. Teva’s fall styles are up to 50% off (with 15% cash back from Rakuten!).

I listened to Bad on Paper’s interview with the founder of Brightland Co., when I learned that olive oil is one of the most fraudulently labeled foods! Makes sense when you think about it. I tried The Duo EVOOs (right after I gave it as a host gift ;-), and it’s the real deal. Closer to the freshly pressed olive oil I tasted in Mallorca this summer than even the most expensive bottle at the grocery store. Also these bottles would look gorgeous on a countertop or table. The Duo and other Brightland Co. gifts are currently 15% off.

I have not tried the Ilia Balmy Gloss Tinted Lip Oil, but I want to! It has great reviews for its smooth texture and plumping effect. The Ilia site is currently 20% off. (And of course I ordered a new set of Fresh Sugar, as I do every year.)

Another incredible stocking stuffer would be this Cannoli Candle! Have you ever seen anything more precious? Imagine someone walking into your house for dinner, and this baby is burning on the table. The Catbird site is currently 15% off. If not the candle, at least the ornament!

My mom swears by humidifiers for combating dry skin in the winter. She got this Pure Enrichment humidifier for everyone in the family, and we all noticed a difference. I remember having a humidifier in my room when I was a kid, but it was bulky and loud. This one here is petit, but long-lasting and very quiet. Currently $5 off on Amazon.

I was joking with friends about how Goldbelly is just for rich people who want to eat Maine lobster rolls in LA or whatever. But then I saw that they sell the Raindrop Cake Kit, and never mind everything I said before! Based on what I remember about the Raindrop Cake when I tried it at Smorgasburg five years ago, this kit is definitely worth it, and actually very reasonably priced. The Raindrop Cake itself tastes refreshing and unique (obviously), but most importantly, it’s fun for the whole family! Goldbelly is currently 20% off The Vegamour GRO Revitalizing Scalp Massager would make a great stocking stuffer for anyone on your gift list. Relaxing, while also stimulating the scalp and boosting hair growth! The Vegamour site is currently 35% off (with 3% cash back from Rakuten!).

I do not own anything from LOFT, but I am curious about these Velvet Skinny Pants. The LOFT site is currently up to 65% off (with 15% cash back from Rakuten!).

My best kept secret (except I tell everyone I can hehe) for the past few years is the amount of Abercrombie & Fitch I’ve been wearing. It’s honestly been very satisfying whenever someone compliments something I’m wearing and I get to say: “Thanks, it’s Abercrombie.” They’ve truly upped their game, and at this point I would wear pretty much anything in their store. I mean how cute is this Turtleneck Sweater Dress? So versatile! The A&F site is currently 30% off.

December 2020 Playlist

The holidays will look very different for most people this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show joy and love and cheer. Like last year, my December has been almost completely crushed by the stress of law school exams (on top of everything else going on in the world). But a tiny piece of Christmas spirit has been ingrained in me for decades. There’s a running joke among performers that Christmas starts in October, as singers, dancers, etc. start rehearsing for the biggest performance season of the year. I’ve literally given up years of my life to this holiday, so even if I’m stuck in my room studying, there’s still a part of my soul that is ready to celebrate. Seems like everyone these days could use some peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Here’s some music to provide just that. Listen below or on my Spotify page. For more holiday tunes, check out previous December playlists herehere and here.

2020 Gift Guide

I hadn’t shopped at all last week, or really this entire year… But I woke up this morning, was blown away by all of the amazing sales, thought about how much money I’ve probablyyy(?) saved during quarantine, and spent the next 15 hours shopping. Even during class while my professor cold-called 30 people in a 60-person class. I’m a monster! I can never resist a good deal, and this year’s Cyber Week is especially good. If you’re looking for some gift or wish list ideas, here are my favorites of what I’ve ordered so far, in case you’re like me and will likely be browsing until the sales end at 3:00 AM ET. (And many of these deals will continue for a few more days, if not through December.)

I’ve wanted a dress for running ever since I lost my Lululemon dress, and the Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress fits the bill! It’s so cute that I’ll probably wear it all the time as normal clothes. Honestly all dresses should come with built-in biker shorts! I got the black and navy, but the green is also nice. Currently 10% off, though students and teachers get an extra 20% off.

If you drink LaCroix every day, you absolutely need to get a SodaStream! I’ve been a sparkling water fan for roughly 20 years but never thought about getting a SodaStream until this year. (I actually thought about getting one a few years ago, but there was that whole West Bank controversy, so I wanted to see how that situation would turn out and then I forgot.) I literally went through boxes of LaCroix each week of quarantine and watched the cans pile up. A SodaStream is so much better for the environment, and the replacement CO2 cylinders are pretty cheap if you participate in one of many exchange programs available. I did consider getting the fancier Aqua Fizz instead of the Fizzi, but ultimately decided I preferred the Fizzi’s large bottles, so I can make larger quantities of sparkling water at once. Today’s it’s only $50 for the starter pack!

Dancing on my toes since the age of three has led to my calves being very athletic (read: thicc). It’s really hard for me to find nice leather boots that fit. I’ve only had two pairs in my entire life! I remember ordering Tory Burch riding boots (back when those were a thing), and being so upset when they arrived and I couldn’t even try them on. But the reviews of these Madewell Carlotta Tall Boots from people who even posted the circumference of their calves give me hope. Perfect for fall and mild North Carolina winters. The name reminds me of the diva in Phantom of the Opera. Currently 50% off. And the rest of Madewell’s website is at least 40%, including all their amazing jeans! I really went to town here.

It’s no surprise that light therapy lamps, aka happy lamps, have become especially popular this year. I was skeptical about the claim that an artificial light source could improve one’s mood like sunlight, but since therapists actually recommend them, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about… And I was pleasantly surprised! Working in front of the lamp made it seem like the shortened winter hours of daylight had been extended. I have this TaoTronics version, which is currently on sale for $26. But there are many different versions on Amazon, at different price points, and with different capabilities, such as multiple colors, timers etc.

After going through a few pairs of cheaper sunglasses inspired by the Ray-Ban Clubmaster Classic, I finally decided to get the OG. I’m assuming they’ll last a bit longer. Excited about the polarized lens upgrade! Currently 30% off, plus a $25 cashback voucher.

One of the best decisions I made during quarantine was buying a Rubik’s Cube (after watching the incredible documentary The Speed Cubers on Netflix). It has honestly been so fun learning how to solve it and then trying to beat my time. I play with it at least a couple times every day. It’s like my own fidget spinner, except I’m 100% not paying attention to the professor if I’m playing during Zoom class. Highly recommend putting a Rubik’s Cube in everyone’s stocking. The entire site is 10% off today.

The OurPlace Always Pan would be a great gift for anyone who likes to cook (which seems to be virtually everyone since Covid started). Apparently it can do a thousand different tricks, and its non-stick abilities require little to no fats or oils to cook. Also it’s so pretty! Influencers love this pan, but there was also a 30,000-person waitlist for it earlier this year, so that must mean something? 35% off today only.

I’ve been golfing more than usual, since it’s one of the few relatively safe quarantine activities. The Callaway shoes I had since high school finally broke last year, and I’ve been looking for a new pair to replace them. Unfortunately, it appears that the golf shoe trend is moving away from spikes to spikeless, even though the grip on spikeless shoes wouldn’t last long. I like these Adidas Response Bounce 2.0 shoes because they look modern, but still have replaceable spikes. Everything on the Adidas site is currently 40% off. I also had to stock up on another pair of Stan Smiths, since I’ve never seen them at such a low price!

I’ve been eyeing the Barbour Beadnell wax jacket for years, but after seeing it several times on this season of The Crown, it was finally time to pull the plug. It’s so versatile and always looks effortlessly cool. This classic style is rarely discounted, but Tuckernuck included it in their site-wide sale: 20-30% off. I ordered the sage, but it was a tough decision because I love all of the colors. I also got this adorable Urban Expressions tortoise clutch in order to meet the next level of discounts.

Really into these Token Jewelry Capsule Hoop earrings. They could easily be worn with a casual or formal outfit. Currently, 10% off orders over $25 at Prelude & Dawn.

These SPANX faux leather leggings have become a cult favorite and are definitely the trendiest clothing item I’ll buy this year. The entire site is 20% off. These J.Crew faux leather Pixie Pants are also cute for a more structured look.

The LUV SCRUB is a long, mesh washcloth that is supposed to be much better at exfoliating and last longer than a loofah. It even won an Allure beauty award this year. I ordered one on a friend’s recommendation and I seriously can’t wait to try it! I’m all about upgrading the little things that we do every day, including showering. The scrubs also come in several aesthetically pleasing colors. They’re usually $18, but are currently only $15. A great stocking stuffer for everyone you know!

Yes, I went from owning zero leather boots to ordering two pairs. Cyber Week 2020: no regrets! I’ve seen these Blondo Velma boots or similar Blondo styles on lots of blogs, and they look fabulous dressed up or down. I appreciate that the suede is waterproof, so I can wear them around New York in any weather. I never would’ve considered over-the-knee boots for myself, but reviews say they fit over athletic calves… Wish me luck! Currently 35% off on Zappos.

The best gift for a dog owner is without a doubt the Furbo Dog Camera. This camera connects to your phone, so you can see, hear, and talk to your dog while you’re away. The best part is that you can even throw treats to your dog! So wholesome. I got this for my sister a couple years ago, and her dog actually gets scared when she talks through the Furbo, but I think her dog is an outlier. Another cool feature is the bark sensor, which sends a notification whenever your dog barks, so you can see what’s going on at home (possibly an intruder!). The Furbo is currently on sale for $134.

Four years ago I bought these Marc Fisher Yale Chelsea Boots in black suede and proceeded to wear them nonstop each fall and winter. They matched every outfit and I got lots of compliments on them. Last year, they were sadly worn to the point of no return and I think I threw them out. Since Nordstrom doesn’t have the black suede version this year, I’m trying out this grainy leather version, which is on sale for $125. As backup, I also ordered the Steve Madden Knoxi Booties and Blondo Siena Booties. I’m also considering these Nisolo Chelsea Boots.

Personally, my body is not super affected by caffeine, but I know a lot of people are sensitive to it. Explorer Cold Brew Co.’s starter pack of premium cold brew coffee concentrate is a cute idea because it includes different levels of caffeine for you to try. It’s currently 20% off. I don’t love coffee (which I think of as dirt water), but I can hang with cold brew.

These Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads 20% are supposed to be fantastic for clear, younger-looking skin. If your face has been a victim of the drier weather on top of all the stresses of Covid, give these exfoliating and moisturizing pads a shot! I’m lucky not to have wrinkles or lines yet, but if there was ever a year to start developing them… It’s probably this one! There is also a 10% version, for those with more sensitive skin. Everything at the Dermstore is currently 30% off!

Books always make wonderful gifts. There’s just something about someone picking out a book specifically for you. If you’re going to order a book online, try Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores and even allows you to order directly through a specific bookstore. Currently, many of their popular books are on sale, and shipping is free all season. I love browsing through NPR’s Book Concierge–a great way to find the perfect book! Also obsessed with this list of Elena Ferrante’s Recommended Reads. The vibes!

I could’ve spent the entire day browsing through J.Crew‘s sale of 60% off everything, and J.Crew Factory‘s sale of 50-60% off everything… Virtual insanity! My favorite find was this pair of tortoise hoop earrings for $6. Literally less than one Sweetgreen!

The best gift for a loved one or yourself is the promise to return to our most favorite activities post-Covid. I bought gift cards for my favorite dance studio Steps on Broadway, discounted at 25% off, as well as theatre ticketing platform TodayTix, discounted at 40% off. There is truly nothing I’d like more than to be back in the studio or at a show.

For more gift guides, check out previous lists from 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016.

Finally, it has come to my attention that some people I know are still not using Rakuten, which is stupid. It’s literally free cash for doing absolutely nothing other than shopping online. There’s no catch! I literally made $100 today through Madewell, J.Crew, Tuckernuck, etc. Use my link to start yourself off with $40. Most of the sites mentioned above are running major Rakuten deals on top of their own discounts!

October 2020 Playlist

Parties should probably be canceled this year. And if a trick-or-treater touches my doorbell tonight I will throw a fit. But Halloween is still a mood. And candy, horror movies, and spooky vibes can always be enjoyed at home. Get into the ghostly spirit with this playlist of creepy, haunting tunes. Listen below or on my Spotify page.

For more Halloween songs, check out previous October playlists herehereherehere, and here.

Juneteenth Films

In honor of Juneteenth, I’ve put together a list of ten extraordinary films dealing with racism that are free to stream this month. Each is powerful, a cinematic achievement in its own right, and conveys important views about race in this country. Celebrate this weekend by continuing to learn about the Black experience.

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Somehow I hadn’t watched Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay (who also directed 13th and When They See Us on Netflix), until two weeks ago. Truly inspiring dramatization of the protest marches that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This movie is a good example of how art can be used to give the audience a new perspective. You can read about all of the events that occurred in this movie, but it’s hard to imagine much more than the result. Seeing those events acted out really emphasizes the endless cruelty and setbacks Black people had to endure at the time, which provides a better reflection on what Black people still experience today. I liked how MLK was portrayed as not just the hero he is, but as a regular human who had faults, doubts, and fears. This movie was another reminder of the importance of voting. People actually died fighting for that right. (And some continue to do so.) Free to rent on Amazon Prime through June 30.

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The Last Black Man in San Francisco follows a Black man reclaiming his childhood home, a now expensive Victorian house in a gentrified neighborhood of San Francisco. Gorgeous cinematography and powerful storytelling. Difficult to compare it to other movies. Gentrification has been increasing at such a high rate that many of us probably don’t think about it that much. But this movie forces us to consider the real effects it has on Black communities. Streaming indefinitely on Amazon Prime.

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In the Heat of the Night was one of the first major Hollywood films to feature a Black hero. Sidney Poitier plays a detective who must solve a murder and overcome prejudice in rural Mississippi. The film won a bunch of Oscars and remains on the American Film Institute’s top 100 list. I have a soft spot for movies from the 60s, but they obviously show hardly any diversity, so this one definitely stands out. Though the hero is a detective, the plot treats law enforcement as the complicated system it still is today. Most millenials probably don’t know that the quote “they call me Mister Tibbs!” comes from this movie and not The Lion King. Streaming on Amazon Prime through June 30.

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I generally despise YA books, but I have to give credit to The Hate U Give for teaching me something new and not completely annoying me with the first person teenage narrative. The protagonist witnesses the death of her Black friend at the hands of a police officer, and the story follows her fight for justice and reexamination of her own place in life. It prompted me to watch the movie version, which also does a great job of conveying the grief and confusion. What makes this most unique is probably the fact that it features a young, black, female perspective, which unfortunately is still uncommon in mainstream literature and film. Free to rent on Amazon Prime through June 30.

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American Son was based on the Broadway play, featuring the same four-person cast. (Wish I’d gotten to see the show live, but unfortunately it ran before I moved to NYC… Otherwise you know I would’ve seen it!) Kerry Washington plays a mother waiting at a police station, trying to locate her missing son. The movie feels a lot like a play, with essentially only a single scene, allowing for a more nuanced perspective on the struggles involved in raising a half-Black son in the U.S. today. The tension builds to a predictable ending, but the frustration, regret, and helplessness she portrays are the movie’s biggest takeaway. Streaming indefinitely on Netflix.

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Moonlight, a coming-of-age story about a gay Black man growing up in Miami, was the first film with an all-Black cast to win the Oscar for Best Picture. (Remember the awkward mix-up with La La Land…) It’s a little more “indie” than most of the others on this list, but undoubtedly beautiful. And A24 has been killing it lately, both in the mainstream and independent crowds. Streaming indefinitely on Netflix.

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I almost didn’t watch Just Mercy because the trailers alone made me cry every time I came across one, and I felt like I already got the gist from Googling the true story. But I’m glad I did because it was extremely inspiring, though also completely heartbreaking. The plot follows a Black man on death row, who appeals his murder conviction with the help of a young defense attorney. Highly recommend for lawyers, but also everyone else. Michael B. Jordan stars (along with Jamie Foxx), and I want to mention another important movie he is in, Fruitvale Station, which I couldn’t find for free, but is honestly worth renting. I also want to mention that the death penalty still exists in some parts of the country, and that is absolutely barbaric. This movie confirms that. Free to rent on Amazon Prime through June 30.

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Mudbound follows a white family and a Black family living on the same land in the Mississippi Delta post-WWII. As you can imagine, racist drama ensues. In addition, the story challenges preconceived notions about race and our role in tolerating or even encouraging racism. Though all of the movies on this list contain some level of violence (no surprise, considering everything that Black people have suffered through in American history…), this one has the most explicit scene. I guess that is a warning, but we are now at the point where if you don’t like seeing or thinking about it, imagine having to live it. Streaming indefinitely on Netflix.

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Blindspotting is the funniest movie on this list. But still pretty intense, since the plot follows a Black parolee with three days left on his sentence, who witnesses a police shooting and also has to deal with his white friend who is out of control in every sense of the phrase. A unique take for those who are interested in thinking more about the relationship between law enforcement and Black America. Free to rent on Amazon Prime through June 30.

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Written and directed by Barry Jenkins (who also directed Moonlight), If Beale Street Could Talk is based on James Baldwin’s book about a young expectant woman who tries to prove her lover’s innocence when he is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Another film with excellent cinematography. Really makes you wonder who the “American dream” was actually meant for… Streaming indefinitely on Hulu.