Tacky Ornament Exchange

Every year, our newly married community group from church has a tacky ornament exchange.  It all started before our group was formed.

{{Dramatic Reenactment}} There wasn’t a newly married group so my friends decided to join another community group.  One of their first interactions was at the group’s annual ornament exchange party.  My friends thought it was a tacky ornament exchange, and proceeded to make fun of every ornament opened.

Only, it wasn’t a tacky ornament exchange.  And all the people had put a lot of time and effort and love into selecting their beautiful ornaments.  Awkward!!!!

So when we formed our community group, we decided to have an over-the-top tacky ornament exchange.  No hurt feelings.  Every ornament guaranteed to be made fun of.  That was four years ago.  Since then, the party and the competition has grown.  Most of us have found our ornaments by September.  We give out an award for the tackiest ornament.  It’s a tacky giant stocking with puffy paint and room for each winner to write their names.

Spoiler alert: This year The Professor and I won.

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Boom.  A creepy prawn.  Its legs and antennae are spring loaded.  They jiggle.  Like a roach.

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I named him Larry.  Larry says, “I’m watching you.”

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Larry has a habitat of green sparkly seaweed!  The seaweed garland is about four feet long.  It’s super gross.

I bought Larry in Canton, Texas at the Canton Trade Days.  The lady selling them – along with a selection of creepy sea-animal themed ornaments – thought they were the most beautiful things ever.  I had to work to keep a straight face when agreeing with her about the elegance and ethereal beauty of my roach-like ornament.

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Here Larry is getting wrapped up in tissue paper.  I call this photo First Impressions.

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And then I used my gift wrapping powers for evil!

Yes, that’s green paper, red ribbon, orange striped ribbon leftover from Halloween, and of course, hot pink and lime green whale ribbon from my niece’s birthday present.

Bahahahahahahah.  (Evil laugh).

I made a cheese ball.  The recipe will be up tomorrow.

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Speaking of cheese balls…

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Some of the guys wore dorky ties that they’ve never been allowed to wear outside the house, post marriage.  But we love our dorks.  The Professor pulled out his Looney Tunes tie.

Are you ready for a tour of tacky!  Let’s dive in and see the tacky ornaments and the awesome couples who received them!

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There was the ballerina cow.  Sorry the picture is blurry.  Dick and Ann were in motion, getting into their ballerina stances while people shouted, “Jazz Hands” in the background.

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Holy cow!

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Addie and Ryan were thrilled about Larry joining their family.

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We named this ornament a Stafford Monster, after the couple who brought it.  It’s going to a good home, as you can see.

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Leg lamp from A Christmas Story.  This guy got stolen a few times.

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Why yes, that’s gold reindeer poop.  According to the folklore (or the sheet that came with the ornament), Santa collects magical gold rainbow poop, which he uses to fund his lavish lifestyle.

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Donnie and Heather have two little girls, so this sparkly, glittery fish went to a good home.

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I’m not sure what this is?  Frankenweenie?  A comical take on a hell hound?

And can Tyra Banks please come give me photo taking lessons?  I’ve gotten into this habit of scrunching up my shoulders when I take a photo, making me look like I have four chins and a hunch back.  Help me Tyra.  Teach me to smize!

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When Addie bought this, the checker asked her if she’d found everything okay.  She told her, “No, I wanted a pirate lizard, but I had to settle with a pirate frog.”  He jiggles just like Larry the Prawn.

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Speaking of lizards, this is a horny toad with a Santa hat.

We had the party at Ben’s house, but his wife Kristin was sick.  So we partied while she slept.  We felt bad, but Ben was an awesome host.  He even gave me instructions on how to make hot cocoa from the special pinteresty cocoa pops Kristin made.  Kristin, you’d be proud!

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And a Benjabread man, which was equal parts disturbing and hysterical.  It won second place.

And that was our party.

Silly holiday traditions with friends are one of my favorite parts of Christmas.  For the next year, we will hold on to our giant stocking trophy with both honor and pride.

So do you have any favorite silly holiday traditions?????

Gift Wrapping Tutorial: Part Two

I hope you enjoyed the first gift wrapping tutorial where we wrapped the first two gifts and looked at the exciting world of working with tissue paper, basic gift wrapping, hiding tape and making six-loop bows.

Get excited everyone because today is all about wrapping with double-sided paper, tying four-loop bows, creating tulle bows, and selecting gift bags!  Yahoo!

Why do I love gift wrapping?  It shows someone how much you care, it’s pretty and – only taking a few minutes per box – there is some major immediate gratification involved.  So let’s delve in to the second and last gift wrapping tutorial!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Gift Three: Double-Sided Paper

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Who doesn’t love double-sided wrapping paper?  But it begs one important question – what do you do with it?  How do you capitalize on the double-sided printing except to wrap it like normal and for the person to say “oh this is double-sided paper,” while unwrapping?

I have an answer for you.  It involves just a few extra steps, but will make your gifts look extra special!

Select a box that isn’t too big or too small.  A gift too big will be difficult to manage with this wrapping style; likewise, a gift too small will be tedious to wrap and may result in you throwing the box across the room.

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Start by cutting an extra long piece of paper – add about five inches to the amount you would normally cut.  I cut my paper a bit too thin and ended up using another piece, so ignore how little the edges are in this picture.  It will be magically rectified in just a second.

Tape the first side of paper down on top of the box.  Instead of taping near the middle, the paper should cover most of the box top.

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Fold the untaped edge under at a right angle, so the paper has a nice clean edge.  Secure the fold with a piece of tape.  This tape won’t be seen, so just slap it right on.  You can see the green band of paper I’m holding – that’s the part I just folded and taped.  Now make another fold – this will be where the underside of your paper shows.  Make it as wide as you want.  Mine is about three inches wide.

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Tape both sides down with the same folded tape method we used to wrap the packages in the first post.

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Now it looks like this.  Both edges of the green band are taped down.  My edges are way too long so I trimmed them.

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You’re going to wrap the ends upside down from the normal box wrapping method.  Start by taping the green flap and adjoining paper to the box.

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Fold and tape the bottom flap.  Make sure to use the tape-folding method so no tape shows.

Tape showing is the cardinal sin of professional gift wrapping, if you haven’t noticed.  It’s like how good updos have no bobby pins showing – your hair is supposed to appear to be magically defying gravity and all other laws of physics.

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Next we can tie a bow.  Choose ribbon that contrasts with the reversed strip of paper.  This bow is similar to the six-loop bow from the first gift wrapping post.  Smaller gifts usually do best with smaller bows, lest the bow swallow up the gift.  That would be sad.

Tie a ribbon around the gift, centered on the flap of paper.  Tie it into a knot with about five inches of excess per side.

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Now it’s time for the bow.  Start by making a loop of ribbon.  My loop is about two inches long.  Pinch the sides together, turn the ribbon an entire turn, make another loop.

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Now you have two loops.  Repeat.

Cut the bow off the spool of ribbon and tie it onto the ribbon already around the package  – I go into more detail about this process in the first tutorial.

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Clip the edges and you’re done!

Excuse the ribbon’s frayed edges.  I bought new scissors after this photo shoot.  They’re bright turquoise, and I told The Professor they’re only for ribbon – not for cutting paper or green onions or breaking down chicken.  Then he reminded me that I was the one who used scissors to cut paper, green onions and chicken.  Not him.  So then I reminded myself of all the new scissor rules.

Gift Three, Part 2: Tulle

Still intimidated by ribbon?  Have no fear.  I have just the thing for you – tulle!  It’s beyond easy.  It always looks perfect.  It is a shiny, puffy miracle.

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Tie a piece of tulle around the present with a few inches of excess, just like you would do with ribbon.  Now make a bow.  Because the tulle is so thin and gauzy and beautious, you can do a lot more loops with the tulle than the ribbon.  There’s no pinching or twisting involved.  Just go back and forth making a few loops, holding the ribbon in the center.

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Tie it down to the ribbon already on the package, and cut the excess.  It fluffs up beautifully!

Easy as pie.  Pie’s actually hard to make.  Easy as snow cones.

Tulle ribbons also flatten easily in shipping and look great again after just a few seconds of fluffing.  If you happen to be mailing packages to grandkids, this is a wonderful material to use in wrapping!

Gift Four: Gift Bags

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Fact – I hate gift bags.  I think they’re over priced and not fun to wrap and not fun to open.  But whether you’re in a hurry, you’re wrapping a kid’s toy that’s oddly shaped, or if you happen to love gift bags, sometimes they’re the way to go.

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Rather than buying a $2 disposable gift bag, I like to buy a reusable tote.  So many stores have them these days.  They’re great for grocery shopping, taking lunch to work and beach bags.  I paid just between $2 and $3 for this Pier 1 Imports tote.  It was the perfect size to wrap the stuffed animal, and now it’s the perfect size for lunches.  Plus, it allows your guests to think of you as they use their reusable tote.

www.accidentalokie.com | gift wrappingJust a little tissue paper, and this gift wrap is beautiful, reusable and green!

Thanks to Brandi from Life by Brandi, a natural-light photographer in Oklahoma City, for these photos.  I couldn’t possibly take pictures of a step-by-step wrapping tutorial, and I was thrilled when Brandi said she’d help me!  If you live in Oklahoma, you should check out her awesome photography!!!

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I hope you enjoyed the gift wrapping series!  Good luck with all your wrapping.

Let us know – how much of your gift wrapping have you finished?

Gift Wrapping Tutorial: Part One

cover

Gift wrapping is one of my favorite parts of Christmas.  I love putting in the effort to make each gift, as small or grand as it might be, something special and cherished for the recipient.  Plus – let’s be honest – I just like making things pretty.

I spent my college years working in high-end retail where proper gift-wrapping technique was drilled in me.  Substandard wrapping jobs were torn open by the shop owner and wrapped again and again until perfect.  I learned how to wrap fast and efficiently, and how to select wrapping materials that are as frugal as they are beautiful.  And now I’ll share all my tips with you!

I worked with Brandi from Life by Brandi, a natural-light photographer in Oklahoma City, for these photos.  I couldn’t possibly take pictures of a step-by-step wrapping tutorial, and I was thrilled when Brandi said she’d help me!  If you live in Oklahoma, you should check out her awesome photography.  She does a lot of family and little kid portraits, and said she enjoyed working with me because she didn’t have to bribe me with candy to smile.  Or so she thought…

We took so many photos of several wrapping tutorials that I’m splitting them up into two posts.  Today, we’ll look at basic wrapping, utilizing tissue paper and a six-loop bow.  Post two covers utilizing double-sided paper, four-loop bows, working with tulle, and selecting innovative and environmentally friendly gift bags!

There are a lot of photos in this post.  I wanted to give you as much information as possible without insulting your intelligence.  Sorry if I ere on the side of not enough details or too many.  Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Okay, put on your Santa hat.  It’s time to delve in!

Assembling Your Materials

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Pull out ribbon, wrapping paper, tissue paper, tulle, tape – any old scotch tape will do, scissors, stickers and gift tags.

For the sake of simplicity, I didn’t add gift tags to this tutorial, but I will show you which step to add the tags to your bow if you’re using a hanging tag and not a sticker tag.

I prefer the thickest wrapping paper possible.  If it’s not thick, you can’t pull it tight around the gift box – it will just tear at the corners.  I get my wrapping paper from Hobby Lobby during Christmas.  It’s 50 percent off, which makes it about $5 for a huge roll, and I only buy patterns that can be used year around.  Now every year I buy one roll to add to my collection.

Wrapping on a hard surface is best.  Sometimes I wrap standing up.  Sometimes sitting down.  Sometimes sitting on the floor, although my back regrets it afterwards.

Gift One: Wrapping a Shirt Box

Most of my loose gifts – ones not already in their own package like a board game – go in a shirt box.  I get a big pack of multiple sizes from Hobby Lobby every year.

tissue paperFirst, make a tissue paper lining.  Lay a two-layer stack of tissue paper over your assembled box to measure the length.  Then fold the stack under until the paper is as long as the box.

tissue paper

On a flat surface, lay out the paper and give it a strong crease along the fold you measured.  The key to working with tissue paper is to keep it sharp and unwrinkled with strategic creases and folds.  Sure you’ll smush up tissue paper if protecting and packaging a breakable item, but more often than not, flat, creased tissue paper is the way to go.

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Most tissue paper isn’t wide enough to be wrapped around the box, so make a second folded tissue paper stack for the other side of the box.  Place them box in the box so that there is room on each side of the box for a tissue paper flap.  Place the item your wrapping in the box.  Make sure to fold it nicely.

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Now bring the two sides together.  Fold the top layer of tissue paper over so that it meets the bottom layer about half way across the box.  Make sure when you fold the tissue paper that you make a crisp fold.  Secure it with a sticker or piece of tape.  I got these fun mustache stickers at Hobby Lobby, but you could do anything from festive striped tape, funny stickers or monogram stickers.  The world is your oyster…err sticker!

Use this fancy tissue paper wrapping technique for anything you put in a box – clothes, china, books, picture frames.  Make sure to still include the tissue paper to protect breakables, just wrap it all in the beautiful folded paper.

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Now it’s time for wrapping paper.

Only cut just as much as you need, and always cut an entire piece of paper.  Never cut out a square of paper, leaving a scrap left on the roll.  You can save your scraps, but save them in a separate roll.  It’s those scraps hanging off the roll that catch and cause large panels of your wrapping paper to get ruined.

Tape your first edge down really well.  This is going to anchor the rest of the wrapping, so make sure the tape is secure.

If you have a little extra paper on the length of your package like I had here, fold it over rather than cutting it off.  Folding the paper gives the edge a strong look, and hey, it’s less work!

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Now turn the package so the untaped flap is facing towards you.  Trust me.  It’s a small but important step.

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Place a piece of tape on the flap.  The sticky side of the tape will be facing you and affixed to the inside of the wrapping paper flap.  Fold the tape over, pull the paper tight around the package and affix the folded tape to the box.  Repeat to the right and the  left of the tape if it’s a long box.

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You’re halfway finished and there is not a single bit of visible tape on the package.  Fold in the corners, tape them down (no folding the tape this time since the flap will cover any tape) and and fold up the top flaps.  Repeat on the other side.

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Stand the box on it’s edge and tape the side flaps down the same way as the center fold – with the tape folded under the wrapping paper and hidden.  Once again, it works best if the flap is facing away from you.  Repeat on the other side.

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No tape!  Look at those sharp lines!

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Now it’s time for ribbon!  Conventional wisdom/wrapping etiquette (if there is such a thing) says the ribbon should cover the back seam.  So this package’s bow is on the long-side of the package since the seam was also on the long side.  I try to always do this.  But sometimes I’m running low on ribbon, so I don’t.

Take your ribbon and measure out enough to wrap around the package plus enough for a good bow.  Tie a knot.  This is where you can tie on a gift tag.  I tied on this cute jingle bell I found at Pier 1.  Tie another knot to secure the tag or bell.  (Skip this if you didn’t add anything).  Then tie a bow!

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You can make the bow perfect after it’s tied by grabbing the loops of the bow in one hand and the tails in another and giving them both a gentle tug.  That should help everything to even out.

Gift Two: Tying a Multi-Loop Bow

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The bigger the package, the bigger the bow! I wrapped this board game with a two-inch thick ribbon.  It’s a great size for big bows.

Start by measuring out your ribbon.  You’ll need enough to tie a bow around the package’s length and width with about eight inches of excess on either side.  I like to measure my ribbon by wrapping it around the package.  Then I cut it, pull it off the package, establish the exact middle of the ribbon and start again.  Remember when tying these wrap around bows, you’ll need to turn the package upside down and start at the underside.

The bigger the package, the bigger the bow!

Tie one knot.  Now it looks like this.  It’s pretty, but look at how nicely tufted the tied ribbon is.  And look at how sad and out of place the flat bottom ribbon looks.  Sad faces all around.

This important step will make it all right.  It will also keep you from having to ask someone to stick their finger on your ribbon.

I learned this step my first week working at one of my college boutiques.  I asked a sweet lady named Sadie – a seventy-year-old African American woman who could have walked straight out of a Harper Lee story – if she could hold a finger on my bow.  She said, “No, honey child.  You’ve got to learn to do that yourself.  We’re all too busy to stop and do that for each other.”  She showed me this step and I never looked back.

Start by identifying the ribbon forming the top of the knot.  For me, you’ll see that my right hand is holding it.  Next, thread that ribbon under all of the ribbon to the exact opposite quadrant of the package.  It’s going to go to where my left hand is.   Notice my green guiding arrow.

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Now it looks like a complete mess.  Have no fear!

I’ve switched the ribbons in my hand.  Now my left hand is holding the ribbon that was threaded, and my right hand is holding the bottom ribbon, which has naturally moved into the top right quadrant of the package.   Tie it into a knot.  Magic is about to happen.

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Magic!  Now all four ribbons are pulled into the knot, not just the top ribbon.  This is a little trick that makes a huge difference in the appearance of your gift wrap.  Do it a few times and you’ll be able to do it in your sleep.

This is also when you would tie a gift tag on.  You want the gift tag to be on a fairly long string, because the bow will be a few inches on either side.

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To tie a bow: take a length of ribbon and make your first loop.  Scrunch it together at the end, twist the ribbon an entire turn and make a loop on the other side, making sure to scrunch and twist the ribbon at every step.

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Soon it looks like this.

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Place the bow on the knot of the ribbon already wrapped around the gift.  Hold down the center of the bow on the knot.  Remember how I said to leave about eight inches of excess ribbon when you wrapped ribbon around the box?  Grab that and tie a knot around your bow.  Tie it really tight.

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Now it’s affixed.  You can fluff it and mess with it until it’s perfect.  Trim the excess.

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And there you have it!  It looks so special and decadent!

I hope this was helpful to you and all your ribbon-tying endeavors!  Don’t forget to check out Gift Wrapping Tutorial Part Two!

 

Christmas Gift Giving Guide: John, The Connoisseur

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CameyDr. Camey, what can I say?  He knows about all the best things.  The best suits, best cigars, best wines.  When we worked together, I enjoyed seeing him and his fellow professors stand around and compare their smart phones and (somedays almost matching) Joseph A. Banks outfits.

His advice will help you find gifts for the dignified, classy men in your life.  His gift buying philosophy is low maintenance and will resonate with most of you guys.  Consider Dr. C. your new guru.  Because he wrote an awesome preamble to his blog, he needs no further introduction!

Preamble

When I agreed to pen a Christmas shopping blog for my friend and colleague Sarah, I did not anticipate the high quality, detailed blogs that her other invitees would provide. Suffice to say I was feeling a bit intimidated until I reminded myself that I am one of the GUYS  she asked to the dance.  When it comes to Christmas shopping most of us guys are considerably less detailed.  If we are married, our wives graciously do most of our shopping for us or tell us what to buy.  If we are single, we try to ignore it until the last minute.  So, I will share my philosophy (approach) to gift selection, mention some generic gifts that guys might (should) like and finally toss out a couple of guilty pleasures.

Philosophy

Far too much time and effort is put into finding out what people need or want for Christmas.  The truth is that in most cases if it is something we really need we can get it for ourselves.  As for “wants” one has to use discernment to decide if it is really only a temporary desire or something that will be a hit.  I generally try to ignore both of these.

Gift giving at Christmas is an opportunity to share part of you.  Give something that represents who you are. For example, anyone who knows me knows that I am a lover of books.  Years ago I started giving books for Christmas.  Not just a few books either.  I give books to every single person in my immediate family from the youngest to the oldest.  I give books to friends, colleagues and even former students.  I pick books that I like or am interested in and want them to have.  In the past I have tried to get the books purchased early enough that I can read them if I want and sometimes make margin notes as I do.  Do they like it?  I’m not sure but they haven’t complained and I certainly enjoy it.

Alternatively, gift selection is an opportunity to share that you really know the person.  Pay attention throughout the year to what they like to do or where they like to go or dine.  Select a gift that lets them know you pay attention.  Think about some of the gifts you have received.  Isn’t it much more pleasing to think, “How did you know?” rather than, “What were you thinking?”

Gifts Guys (Should) Like

Art of Manliness Book

Books
This is pretty well addressed in previous posts.  If you give a book now you have to make some effort to find out if the recipient is an ebook person and, if so, which reader they prefer.  Amazon makes gifting easy in that you can give the book as a gift and print out the gift card/code to give directly to the recipient.

iTunes

iTunes Gift Card
If you are buying for an Apple person (iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc.) there are few better more appreciated gifts than this.  The card can be used to purchase books, movies, music and apps.  Trust me.  This will be a hit (and not just with men!)

ties

Clothing
Most grown up men appreciate clothing for Christmas.  Our wardrobes can pretty much always use some spiffing up with dress shirts, ties or accessories.  Men don’t obsess about their wardrobe too much but let me make a suggestion.  Before you go to J.A. Bank, Dillard’s or even Nordstrom, try going to a real men’s clothing store where you will get personalized service and advice.  In OKC I recommend The Pinpoint Resource in 50 Penn Place.  Tell the owner Chris Khrais I sent you.  Ask around if you are not in the OKC metro.  There are always good local haberdashers.

Personal Accessories

  • Personalized note cards – everyone should have them and most do not.
  • Leather Portfolio – I received a number of gifts when I completed my Ph.D. This is the only one I still have and I think about the good friends who gave it to me every day.
  • High End Shaving – I recently started using The Art of Shaving supplies.  You can get a starter kit.  He will need a good double edged safety razor as well.  The Merkur long handle is a good one.  Don’t forget a selection of blades as well.  Oh, there’s nothing “safe” about a safety razor.  A styptic pencil would make a good stocking stuffer.

Dart Board

Guilty Pleasures
WARNING: I don’t know you or for whom you are buying, so you may find some of these to be inappropriate.

  • Remote Controlled Anything – Helicopters, cars and tanks are pretty popular right now.  If you go here don’t cheap out, especially on flying toys.  Nothing is worse that a remote controlled toy you really can’t control.
  • Dart Board – Everyone loves darts and you can get a board for soft darts at attractive prices.  It can go in the den, family room or maybe even in his office.
  • Wine – Wine can signal who you are or what you know about the person and can range from under $10 to infinity in price.    This time of year Beaujolais Nouveau is an inexpensive and fun gift.  Lindeman’s Bin anything is safe as is anything from the Russian River Valley if you don’t know much yourself.   If you are a wine person pick something you would like to give.  When in doubt ask your wine merchant he/she is always a good resource.
  • Liquor/Cigars – Only you can judge here.  Suggestions?  Single Malt Scotch, Small Batch Bourbon, Rocky Patel or Fuente Opus.

Epilogue

There you have it.  What can I say?  I’m a guy.  I hope you all have a Merry and Blessed Christmas filled with family, fun and successful gifting.

Christmas Gift Giving Guide: Matt, The Guy

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Ladies, it’s the week you’ve all been waiting for in the Accidental Okie Gift Giving Series.  Yes, it’s testosterone week.  It’s the week when the veil is lifted and we get to learn from guys what they really want for Christmas.  Can I get a hallelujah!

Let me give it to you straight: Matt is probably cooler than you.  He most certainly is cooler than me.  He and his awesome wife Charissa are downtown dwelling folks who embrace city life and all the hipness that comes along with it.

Ladies, Matt has insightful gift ideas for your man or brother or son.  Men, he also has suggestions that will make you look like a knight in shining armor (or skinny jeans and a scarf, if you’re a hipster) to the lady in your life.

Take it away Matt.

I buy gifts for:
My wife, the sibling-in-law not-so-dirty-santa gift exchange (which is usually a knife or a flashlight), and the Fry family member whose name I draw. I also provide input on gifts for our nieces, aunts and uncles, and probably others that I’m forgetting.

My gift-buying philosophy is:
Here’s the thing, It’s not that I dislike giving gifts, it’s just that I over-think it. I put too much pressure on myself. I always think I have to get some unimaginably perfect gift, which leads to putting it off until the last possible moment, which results in a crappy, last-minute gift, which is not fun for anyone and only reinforces my neurosis. So I tend to just buy other people things that I think are cool and include the tags and receipt. I basically give out really big, oddly-shaped gift cards.

My favorite part of Christmas:
To be honest… I’m not a huge fan of Christmas. The holidays were typically a stressful time for my family. We didn’t have a lot of money, which tends to make buying things much less enjoyable. One year when I was 9 or 10, my mom tried to get creative and decided we were having a “Symbolic Christmas,” where we’re all supposed to hand-make gifts that represent how we felt about each other. So obviously my dad and brother and I went to the mall on Christmas Eve, where we decided to pool our money and buy Mom a new Crock-Pot. We all laugh about it now, but when she opened it, she burst into tears. Apparently no woman wants to be symbolically represented by a 4-quart Crock-Pot (this is also true for vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, and washing machines). I also worked at Hobby Lobby for several years in high school, where I was waist deep in glittery ornaments, festive holiday potpourri, and non-stop Christmas Muzak  from August to February every year. So that might be the real source of my Grinchy feelings about The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

My favorite Christmas movie:
Die Hard

Matt’s Gift Ideas

knife

Gerber Evo Jr. Serrated Knife
I own a lot of knives. Don’t ask why; that’s not important. What is important is that, out of the many, many knives I own, I keep this knife on my person at all times. Just don’t take it to the airport. They don’t like knives much there. Especially if you have one in your pocket and three more in your backpack.

Foot Cardigan

Monthly Subscription to Crazy Socks from Foot Cardigan
A delightfully unusual pair of socks, not of your choosing, sent every month! Who could POSSIBLY resist?? Okay, full disclosure: a few friends and I started Foot Cardigan back in June. But just because this is blatant self-promotion doesn’t mean it’s not an awesome gift!

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Google Nexus 7 Tablet
There’s this newish trend towards smallish 7-inch tablets (eg: Kindle Fire, Nook Color, iPad Mini) but the Nexus 7 is the best of them and at $199 it costs less than most of them. I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s got the best screen, the fastest speeds, and the Android Jelly Bean operating system makes it (in my opinion) the most enjoyable to use. It does everything a Kindle or Nook can do, and much more. And it costs almost half the price of an iPad Mini. For more technical details, go here.

klean

Klean Kanteen 16oz Insulated Bottle
Between the two of us, my wife and I have five of these. My only complaint is that the klean kanteen keeps my single origin direct trade organic yirgacheffe french press too hot to drink for almost the entire drive to work because this thing insulates so well. UGH. Oh, and don’t forget the cafe cap.

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Casio Men’s MQ24-7E Classic Analog Watch
I love this watch. It’s classic and nearly indestructible, but who cares if it does get destroyed because it only costs $10. Heck, buy two.

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Elsa Peretti Diamonds by the Yard pendant
For women, you can’t go wrong with a diamond-anything that comes in the iconic blue box from Tiffany’s. And for $200, it won’t break the bank either. And if you really want to make all your buddies look bad, Charissa says to mention there is also a matching ring for $395.

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The Gift of Warmth

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Five Love Languages, but I think Gary Chapman left out the most important one (for my wife, anyway): the gift of not being cold. Every Christmas and birthday, I include some kind of warmth-inducing item. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Cookie Mix + Mini Skillet

Charissa has been working on gifts for co-workers, admins, aunts, and other female-type people. A good chance to be all pinteresty and do-it-yourself-y. And if you’ve never had a cookie pizza made in a mini-skillet, you’ve never lived.

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Homegrown Monogram Mug from Anthropologie + Spiced Chai

The mug by itself is a great gift for bosses, co-workers, and in-laws. Just $8 and it usually goes on sale a few days before Christmas (but they sell it year round). Throw in a pack or two of Big Train Chai and you’ve got yourself a top-tier gift idea. It really is the best chai you’ll ever taste. Charissa has a bi-monthly subscription from Amazon, so we get a two-pack of two-pound cans every other month.

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A PUPPY!!!!

Who wouldn’t want a puppy??

Proof 1:

Proof 2:

Here is our puppy being adorbs and generally making the world a better place through her cuteness and happy tail-wagging:

Christmas Gift Giving Guide – Reb: The Expat

This post is part of my 2012 Gift Giving Series, running from November to part of December.  I’ve asked people from all walks of life, tastes, styles and budgets to recommend ten unique gift ideas.

Remember that time I said my friends are cooler than me?  Well, here’s some more proof.  Meet Rebecca.  We went to Baylor together, and to the same church and were in the same sorority.  We also formed a Facebook group called Patriotic Ex-Patriots United.  Only she actually became an expat.  I became an Oklahoman, which is similar in the eyes of many Texans.

Rebecca knew she wanted to be a professor of medieval English, but in our last weeks at Baylor, rejection letter after rejection letter came from every graduate school she applied to, and Rebecca saw her dreams slipping away.  But then when all hope seemed lost, she received a hand-delivered letter from the postman.  From Oxford.  The number one school in the world to study medieval English.

So, Rebecca went to Oxford where she got her Ph.D. and met her husband, who, among other things, is taller than her.  This is a big deal since Rebecca is nearly six feet tall.

Now they live in Australia where, ahem, Dr. Rebecca is doing post-doctoral research on suicide in the middle ages and how the medieval writings about it can be integrated into modern suicide prevention material.  You can read an article she wrote about it here.

I hope you enjoy meeting Rebecca!

I buy gifts for:  husband, parents, brother and sister, parents- and siblings-in-law, my bestie in Texas, old college roommates, a few co-workers (and if celebrating Christmas with extended family in America: a small something for grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins)

My gift buying philosophy:  My gifts tend to fall into two categories: exotic or (and?!) delicious.  I love watching people experience new places and things, so I’m on the lookout all year for interesting local items I can pick up when I’m traveling (overseas or to a neighboring state/city) and save to give as Christmas gifts.  Whether it’s ornamental or edible, it’s fun to show a loved one that you thought of them while traveling, and they get to keep a little piece of some foreign locale for themselves.

I also enjoy stocking loved ones’ reading lists with new books I think they’ll enjoy—I keep my eyes on the recent releases and read book reviews to take note of who might like what.  And I adore making and gifting homemade treats in clever packages.  I like to give baked goods, homemade truffles, or mixes for quickbreads, muffins, or soups.  It’s all in the presentation, too!  A well-presented gift, even if it’s a small, inexpensive item, just seems a little more personal and meaningful when it’s beautifully packaged.

My favorite part of Christmas:  After spending the holidays in many different places and cultures, I know without a doubt my favorite part of Christmas is just being with family.  I am blessed with a close, loving immediate family, a big extended family on my mom’s and dad’s sides, and a fantastic set of in-laws.  Being able to spend a few days of quality time with them—preparing meals, baking treats, watching silly movies, sipping wine and chatting late into the evening—it’s the best, and something I treasure even more since spending the last seven years living oceans away from relatives.

My favorite Christmas movie:  Home Alone… or Miracle on 34th Street… or Love Actually… and my (mostly male) cousins and I have a tradition of watching cheesy action movies together on Christmas, think Rambo or something starring Bruce Willis.

Reb’s Gift Ideas

Books!

You can never have too many, and it’s a great way to exercise your deep knowledge of your loved ones and their interests.  Scour the NYT book review section http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/index.html, the London Review of Books http://www.lrb.co.uk/, New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/books?intcid=books, and the New York Review of Books http://www.nybooks.com/.  Something is bound to jump out at you that’s just right for one of your friends or relatives.  Books I would pass on include Peter Carey, The Chemistry of Tears, and of course Kathryn Stokett, The Help.  You might also consider gifting a luxury edition for an extra-special present.  Look at the shelves of hardbound classics in bookstores and choose a book (judging by content AND cover!) that will suit your giftee.  Make sure to personalize it by writing a message in the front flyleaf.

Cookbooks

(Different category than the last by my reckoning.)  I have to do an Aussie plug here and recommend some of my favorite Antipodean cookbooks.  Foodie/photography blogger Katie Quinn Davies has just released her first, and it’s full of beautiful pictures and funky write-ups of her delicious, down-home cooking.  Her Irish-Australian recipes are perfectly suited to a family meal or a dinner party for a crowd.

Bill Granger was Australia’s first masterchef winner, and his restaurants serve simple, beautifully-prepared food that showcases the best of what’s in season.  I own ‘The Best of Bill’ and have enjoyed experimenting with his ‘modern Australian’ cooking.  He specializes in fresh produce and seafood—with a Southeast Asian flair—and that Aussie favorite: brunch. His newest cookbook, ‘Easy’, looks fab, and would be ideal for the busy chef, as each chapter focuses on staple ingredients (a rotisserie chicken, a can of beans, fillet of fish) and turns them into healthy and flavorful dishes.

Personalized Charity Gifts

It’s easy to arrange a charity donation on behalf of a friend or loved one through organizations such as Unicef, Oxfam, and the Red Cross.  These gifts are a thoughtful way to express holiday cheer while reaching out to the larger global community.

Last year, my sister-in-law arranged charity donations for each member of our family, creatively personalizing each donation so that it resonated with her intended giftee.  It was one of the sweetest gestures.  I love to cook, so she made a donation in my name to a charity that would provide food for a family for some months.  My brother-in-law is training to be a teacher, so her donation in his name went towards a charity that would provide children’s education.  My Aussie husband enjoys a cold one : )  For him, she wrote the funniest card explaining that she couldn’t find a charity that provided beer, so she made his charity donation to an organization that provided clean drinking water.

Custom BobbleHead

This is just as cheesy as it sounds, but there is likely a person in your life (little brother? Husband? Dad?) for whom a custom bobblehead is the ideal gift.  My brother just received a look-alike bobblehead of himself from his wife as a birthday gift, and he’s already proudly taken it to display on his teacher’s desk at his high school.  The resemblance is uncanny.

Houseplants

My mother-in-law is a botanist and gardener extraordinaire.  She is slowly teaching me how not to kill every green thing my thumbs come into contact with. Her faith in my gardening abilities has given me a new enthusiasm for plants.  Giving a pot of flowers for the patio, trio of herbs for the kitchen widowsill, or a little terrarium is a gift that will last long after Christmas (hopefully!) and will brighten the home of your giftee.  Better Homes & Gardens has a handy houseplant picking guide and a make your own terrarium tutorial.

Homemade Treats

This is the kind of gift I give to co-workers or extended family if we’re all gathered together for Christmas.  Food is always welcome, and baked good mixes are even better because they can be saved for after the holiday binge period.  Creative packaging makes these gifts even more special.  Pick up scraps of fabric, paper, ribbons, twine, and beads throughout the year so you’re ready to wrap up your homemade treats.

Last year I made this chocolate chip oatmeal bread mix for our cousins, stacking the ingredients in glass jars decorated with fabric and ribbon, with baking instructions attached. They all replied a few weeks or months later saying that the bread was delicious and that they appreciated being able to easily throw something together for a lazy weekend breakfast.

You can also arrange your favorite cookies in pretty tins (molasses cookies are perfect for the holidays: the Pioneer Woman’s recipe is the same delicious one my mom makes, and I’ll be posting my own vegan version on my blog soon, or make homemade truffles and give with a bottle of wine).

Oxfam Dove

Fairtrade Homeware and Clothing

Most shopping malls in Australia have a fairtrade store selling beautifully crafted homeware, jewelry, and clothing.  This is often my first stop for little, meaningful gifts—a beaded necklace from India, a scarf from South America, or a carved bowl from Africa.  These products are usually made from recycled or sustainable materials, and they empower people to earn salaries that will support themselves and their families.  This beautiful dove stamped with ‘peace’ in English and Khmer is made in Cambodia out of recycled bombshell fragments.  If you can’t find a fairtrade store near you, check out the FairTradeFederation gift guide.

Sydney Opera House

An Event

Movie, play at the local theatre, ballet, or concert—event gifts are fun!  Whether you give a pair of tickets so two lovebirds can have a date night on you, or give a friend one ticket and keep the other so you can attend together, this gift creates a space for quality time as well as a show your giftee will enjoy.  Look at the event guides for some of the big performance spaces in your city or at your city’s ‘what’s on’ calendar.  The Sydney Opera House even has a selection of event suggestions for Christmas gifts.

Ornaments

Maybe this one is cliché, but I love Christmas ornaments.  I have a treasured collection—some from my grandmothers who are now gone, a few of the macaroni and glitter ones I made as a kid that my mom gifted me with some of her own, nutcrackers and ballerinas galore from when I used to perform in The Nutcracker years ago, and now six years’ worth of ornaments from my three college roommates.  At graduation we decided that we would forgo purchasing birthday and Christmas presents for each other, saving the money instead to meet up wherever we might be in the world.  But we have a tradition of sending around four of the same ornaments so that our Christmas trees will look similar when we’re old!  I usually pick up a set of ornaments from a fun location when I travel—this year it’s painted wooden animals from Cape Town, South Africa.  Anthropologie has some beautiful vintage-style ornaments this year, loving the Aussie-looking black swan and fluffy pink coupe de gala kiwi.

Have fun choosing gifts for your friends and family, and I hope you’ve received a healthy dose of inspiration from Accidental Okie!  Blessings to you and yours for the holidays, whether they’re spent in cold or hot climes : )

Xx Reb (SouthernSpoonBelle @ www.southern-spoon.blogspot.com)

Christmas Gift Giving Guide: Sarah, The Best Friend

sarahThis post is part of my 2012 Gift Giving Series, running from November to part of December.

Sarah: The Best Friend.  That’s not a descriptive title compared to The Fashionista, The Etsy Queen, The Hipster.  But in a way, I hope it’s the most descriptive of all the titles in the gift-giving series because I hope you all have a best friend like I have in Sarah.  Sarah is someone who knows my secrets and fears and dreams.  She always remembers my birthday and anniversary, even though remembering things like that is not my greatest strength.  We get in busy ruts and don’t talk for two weeks, and pick up right where we left off.  We trek the eight-hour drive to see each other every year and stay up talking until the wee hours of the morning.  In short, I hope you all have a Sarah.

Sarah has great taste – I’d call it rustic chic.  She’s a true Texas girl and now she has her own little Texas girl.  I hope you enjoy her gift ideas!

I buy gifts for: My husband, our 20-month-old daughter, our parents, siblings (late 20s), grandparents, and whatever names we draw in our extended families.  If time and budget allow, I like to do a little something for close friends.

My gift-buying philosophy is:  Ideally, I start thinking about “the perfect gift” ideas around September, and just buy them as time and funds allow.  (If a brilliant idea arises beforehand, I write it on a post-it and stick it on the October or November calendar page.)  Over the last couple years, I’ve really attempted to shop earlier so that our December budget is relieved a bit.  Most of the people listed above receive a personal gift, but some extended family members are given a family or couple gift.  When deciding what to buy for each person (or family), I try to focus on something intentional that he/she would truly love and would remind him/her of my love for them.  Sometimes the gift is practical, sometimes it isn’t at all.  A general theme I do seem to follow, though, is that of personalization.  I love initials, special pictures, and monograms.   As an amateur photographer, it’s not uncommon for many gifts to include a pic that marks a special memory.  And, if possible, I try to support a small business.

My favorite part of Christmas:  My sentimental sappiness only climbs during the holidays, so I adore traditions- big and small.  With a young child, we are thinking a lot about what traditions we want to establish in our little family, since she is at the perfect age to recognize and remember what we do.  I pray that all the fun things about the holidays never overshadow the joy found in Jesus’ birth.  My hubby gave me the Willow Tree Nativity our second Christmas together, so that is the focal point of our décor.  I also love Christmas music, white twinkle lights (re: You’ve Got Mail), ornaments from each year representing a story/memory,  taking a ridiculous number of pictures, receiving Christmas cards, and special drinks and foods that remind me of every Christmas before.

My favorite Christmas movie: I grew up watching White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, and still make a point to watch them.  For modern flicks, The Holiday has become a fave as well.

Sarah’s gift ideas.

Picture Plates by Shutterfly

I just love all the fun gifts we can make with our own pictures.  Shutterfly is expanding beyond the traditional prints and books, to include personalized plates for your table.  Embrace a fun, whimsical design for kids or aim for classic with a single image of a beautiful bloom.

Gift Boxes from Penzey’s Spices

If you’re buying for a culinary genius or just someone who appreciates high-quality ingredients, check out the fabulous line of spices and seasoning from Penzey’s Spices.  They offer several themed gift boxes (cooking, grilling, etc) at a great value and in attractive boxes.  My husband and I especially appreciate that they list suggested uses on the spice jars.

Honorary Donation

Do you have a loved one who might literally have everything? If his home is busting at the seams or if giving beyond herself resonates with her heart, consider giving a donation to a worthy organization in your loved one’s honor.  If he/she cares deeply about children or families, give to Focus on the Family.  Or, maybe he would be thrilled to know that instead of receiving another tie, money will be buying an essential heifer or goat for a family in a third-world country.

To stay local, adopt a family in need or a child from Angel Tree, a ministry that allows children of incarcerated men and women to have a Christmas gift, and take your loved one with you to purchase the requested items.  This can be a particularly valuable experience for children.  Let’s remember the groups doing significant work domestically and around the world during this season of giving.  (Be sure to use Charity Navigator to check an organization’s credibility/trustworthiness if you have not contributed to them before).

book

Children’s Books from “I See Me”

This innovative company has created a beautiful line of unique, personalized books for babies and children.  With vivid illustrations, I See Me teaches children how to spell their names, hosts a royal princess birthday party, and celebrates the fun of Christmas with your child in the story.  We ordered My Very Own Name for our daughter and she consistently chooses it to read.  Just recently, I ordered God Loves You!  and I am excited to give it to her for Christmas.  Be sure to sign up for email updates when you visit their website, and they’ll send you an immediate coupon code.

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Silhouettes

Even you’re just a tiny bit curious, you must check out these beautiful works of art by Tim Arnold!  Mr. Arnold hand-cuts detailed silhouettes from a picture starting at just $40.  These are not just for the log cabins in Little House on the Prairie.  Visit The Nester to see how she incorporates her children’s silhouettes into an awesome focal wall.   I’m excited to order one of these for our daughter now that she has enough hair.

monogram necklace

Pretty Things to Monogram

A monogrammed necklace or picture frame is the perfect go-to gift.  Traditional silver frames from Pottery Barn make a classic statement in a home, especially with a special picture to personalize it.

I learned about Vintage Pearl after inquiring about a friend’s necklace.  They create beautiful jewelry that can be personalized with initials, children’s names, or birthstones.  I’m not a jewelry fanatic, but I knew I had to have their name charm after my daughter was born.  I wear it almost daily!

magazines

Subscriptions

Magazines, Sirius XM, and Spotify keep giving all year-round.  If your loved one is a music lover or enjoys an entertaining read, a gift-subscription could provide the perfect escape during a busy day.  From cooking to sports, there’s a publication for nearly everyone’s favorite hobby or interest. (Consider if the recipient would prefer an e-subscription if he/she has a tablet of some sort.)

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Wooden Name Puzzles

I love a good story, nostalgia, and sentimental things.  Surprised?  I didn’t think so.  Rootin’ Ridge Toymakers ties together these 3 elements beautifully with their classic wooden toys.  The husband & wife team have been creating children’s treasures for almost 40 years (!) in their adorable woodshop.  Strolling through their quaint-feeling shopping center, it’s easy to forget you’re in a busy part of Austin.  Anyways, the toys…  They make a variety of safe, high-quality items, but I love the wooden name puzzles.  What a great way for your little loved one to practice fine motor skills while learning to spell his/her name!  Rootin’ Ridge does accept online orders, but hurry if you want it for the holidays.

An Experience

I’m thankful that my parents emphasized quality time with family when I was growing up, and Christmas seems like the perfect time to be intentional about it.   As I’ve watched mine and my husband’s grandparents age, I have been impressed with the importance of spending time with them.  Many older folks aren’t able to enjoy the same activities and mobility of their past, and they would love the chance to see you and get out of the house, nursing home, etc.  If this sounds familiar, consider taking your loved one (young or old) on a picnic on a pretty day, shopping in a decorated mall, on a tour through your city’s museum, to a community play, or out to eat and looking at Christmas lights in a fancy neighborhood.  A quick Google search can help you find creative things in your town.  Know that the time spent will be worth gold to them.

The Family Gift

So I mentioned a family gift earlier, so let me offer a few examples.

The Movie Bucket:  Grab a cute bucket and stuff it with everything needed for a fun family movie night.  Movie-style candy, popcorn, a 2L of coke, and an age-appropriate movie are the essentials.

The Bleacher Family:  Collect fun things for the family who spends lots of time on the bleachers watching someone’s game (Snacks, sunscreen, ball cap for the team, pom-pom, drinks, memory card for the camera, The Sandlot movie).

The same idea could be applied for a family who looks forward to the summer beach vacations, people with a road-trip planned, or the die-hard college football fans.  All you need is a sturdy container to start and some imagination!

gifts

Registries

Don’t forget about unfinished registries for the nuptials or parents-to-be!

Merry Christmas & happy shopping!

You can read all the gift giving guides here!

Gift Giving Guide: Kylie, The Fashionista

Are you enjoying the Gift Giving Blog Series?  (You can click here to read the whole series, which will run every Tuesday and Thursday throughout all of November and part of December).

Today’s blogger is Kylie.  She’s a true fashionista.  She has a degree in apparel and fashion merchandising, has worked for Nordstrom and now manages a high-fashion boutique.  (Yes, we have those in Oklahoma).  In short, she’s legit, and she has amazing taste.  I went to her house a few days ago for the first time and nearly died on the spot and went to Pinterest/Pottery Barn/Anthropologie heaven.

Kylie has recommended classy and fashionable – yet affordable – gift ideas for men and women of all ages!

Introducing Kylie:

I buy gifts for: My parents, parents-in-law, my siblings, my husband’s siblings and their spouses, a few nieces, some of my closest friends, my boss, and a few others.

My gift buying philosophy: I LOVE gifts and gift-giving. There is something so special and magical about Christmas time and exchanging gifts. I like to plan well ahead of time so that I can give a gift that will be thoughtful and special for each individual. To me, gifts reflect what’s in your heart, and what you feel for another individual.

My favorite part of Christmas: Definitely decorating our Christmas tree. It is a long, time-honored tradition in my family to take a whole day and devote it to decorating our giant Christmas tree with all of our special ornaments, collected from over the years.

My favorite Christmas movie: The Polar Express. I was obsessed with the book as a child and now love the movie. The movie truly captures how special and magical Christmas-time can be for everyone, no matter your age.

Kylie’s Gift Ideas:

Yosi Samra Fold Up Shoes

Yosi Samra Ballet Flats
These have been featured in People Magazine many times as the most comfortable flats available. And they truly are.  Working retail 8-10 hours a day keeps me on my feet, and these feel like I brought my slippers with me to work. The perfect gift for any of the girls.

LuLu Lemon Boxers
These are for the guys in my life. Sounds strange, but every man in my family swears that these are the most comfortable and best boxers in the world. They are a little pricey, so it’s always fun to throw one (or a few) in as extra little gifts or even as fun stocking stuffers.

Penguin T-Shirts
Classic and cute, these are a throw-back to the originals from the 1950’s. All styles make great, comfortable t-shirts for brothers, brothers-in-law, dads, cousins, etc.

OU OSU Hats

College Sports Gear
My husband and I just moved to Oklahoma where he’s getting his master’s degree. Anything featuring Oklahoma sports is a great gift for people in our family who are all new fans!  Whatever your team, this makes a great gift for the guys in your life.

BareMinerals Lipgloss
These are great stocking stuffers. The best lip gloss in the world, isn’t sticky and has a great minty lip-plumping property.

Dogeared Pendant Necklaces
I’m obsessed with these right now. So cute and fashionable. There are so many varieties and options available to help you customize for any girl on your list.

Zella Infinity Scarf
Where my husband and I are from, it gets really cold. I’m still getting used to that idea that I’ll be experiencing my first “mild” winter in a while, now that we live in Oklahoma. But scarves ALWAYS make great gifts. They are cute, fashionable, and extremely useful and functional for the cold winter months.

Restoration Hardware Slippers
Slippers make great gifts! They aren’t something that someone would usually buy for themselves, but everyone needs a pair! Especially to make it through the winter. Restoration Hardware has really great, cozy slippers that are also very affordable. They have men’s and women’s styles. And anything from Restoration Hardware is always amazing.

Michael Kors Eau de Parfum
In my family we use Christmas as an opportunity to give gifts that an individual might not normally buy for themselves. This perfume is a staple for all the girls in my family. It’s classic and pretty, but not overpowering, something that you can wear every day.

Old World Christmas Ornament

Old World Christmas Ornaments
Obsessed. The only word I can use to describe my love for these ornaments. My family has been collecting these since before I can remember and each year they come out with many brand new ones. The best part; the family who owns and designs them is from my hometown. These magical ornaments are wonderful for any holiday housewarming party and are perfect to add to the top of any present. And there are literally hundreds to choose from!

Christmas Gift Giving Guide: Liz, The Hipster

Liz: Hipster, mom, church planter, fighter of human trafficking, blogger, effortless beauty, possible spy and sneaky dreamer

Liz and I lived on the same dorm hall our freshman year at Baylor University (Collins Hall Forever!).  She was this well-traveled missionary kid/Kappa, and I was my super-awkward self.  Somehow we became friends.  She filled my wanderlust heart with stories of having to get a new passport because her first was filled up by the end of high school, talking to cats in Russian, and her dreams of working for the State Department.

Liz blogs at Lark and Bloom.  That’s where you can learn about her adventures and hear her deep thoughts.  Side note – I helped her redesign her blog.  It’s really hipstery, which was a design stretch for me.  I’m not really hipstery.

I Buy Gifts For:  I primarily buy gifts for my family and a few friends. I would love to buy for a broader circle, but I since I am limited on budget I narrow the gift list.

My Philosophy on Gifts:  I want the gifts to be meaningful items that someone wouldn’t normally purchase for themselves. My favorite gifts to give are ones that have a story to them or help create a story.

My Favorite Part of Christmas: Err…the whole thing? Seriously, I love everything about Christmas. I suppose what I love most is the pause in the year to identify and celebrate the things that feel like ‘home’ to me.

Favorite Christmas Movie: Honestly, my favorite movies to watch at Christmas are old home movies. I never take time to watch them any other time. Plus, it’s great to take a trip down memory lane with your family.

Liz’s Gift Ideas

 Wrist CompassImage via

Military Antiques

What male isn’t obsessed with war movies? My husband loves the Band of Brothers miniseries, so I purchased a wrist compass from this company last year for his gift. It was worn during the invasion by a paratrooper. All his guy friends have MAJOR envy over it. Have a look & you will be sure to find something for the guys on the list no matter your budget.

Succulents

This is a great idea if you have a group of people you need to give gifts to. Co-workers, people in your small group at church or extended family. They are very inexpensive, incredibly low maintenance & beautiful all at the same time. You can buy them online or at your local garden center. Put one in a container with some dirt & it is a great gift. If you want to save even more money, plant them in a tin can instead of a pot.

Accidental Okie says: Afraid to make your own?  You can also buy centerpieces like the one pictured from Etsy.

moustache party

Last year, Liz threw a mustache party for her husband’s birthday!  Now that’s an experience.

An Experience

Huge fan of these! What is a better gift than spending time with the people you love? Take the person to dinner, a movie, an art show…do something together that creates memories. These are the best gifts!

DIY Bowling Kit For Kids

I think this is a great gift for kids. Really, it is two presents. It is a craft and a game. The size is also a plus. It is small and could easily be taken for kids to play while traveling.

Birchbox

Birchbox

What do you get when you cross Sephora with a mailman? Birchbox! This is a monthly subscription that will send you travel sizes of makeup and skincare products. A great gift for any female. You can purchase a 12, 6 or 3-month subscription.

Theo Chocolate

Theo Chocolate

I discovered this gem when I lived in Seattle. It is hands-down my favorite chocolate ever. Their shop in Seattle takes the chocolate from bean to bar & it is all fair trade certified beans. They have some great pre-made gifts or you can buy individual items. A great accompanying gift for this would be a pair of stretchy elastic pants.

Oxfam Unwrapped

Oxfam Unwrapped

These might be some of my favorite gifts to give. You can go on their site & purchase an item for someone living in poverty. Medicine, blankets, a chicken, art supplies, and soap…the list is endless. The best part is that Oxfam sends a card (which are really funny by the way) to the friend you are giving the gift in honor of. The perfect gift for someone who has everything!

Photo via

A Love Letter

What is better than a classic? When is the last time someone took time to craft a beautiful letter for you? That is what I thought. It has been a while. This is free and is a great romantic gift. Get a nice pen. Get nice paper. Now sit down and tell them in longhand what they mean to you. This is so rare since our communication has been degraded to social media form.

OMG! U r 2 cute. Xoxo. #yolo

Doesn’t send the head spinning with passion. So, think through what you love about them and write it out. I love receiving letters. The things someone says about me in their own words is much more impactful that what a store has pre-crafted. Put on some music & pen away.

 Land of Nod

Land of Nod

The gift of childhood is the best thing to give kids. So many toys now require no imagination. I think it is such a shame since childhood should be full of fantasy & whimsy. Land of Nod has great toys with a nostalgic bend. You can find gifts for kids at any price point. My kids could play in this store for hours.

Good luck with your Christmas shopping. Wishing you a merry & bright holiday season!

 

Christmas Gift Giving Guide: Tricia, The Hip Grandma

tricia

I hope you’re enjoying the gift giving guide blog series!  I know I’ve had fun seeing gift suggestions from this amazing group of people.  I’ve already been inspired by their suggestions and have a few people checked off my gift list.  The series is every Tuesday and Thursday throughout November and part of December.

I’ve asked each of the guest bloggers to answer a few questions about themselves, so you can get to know everyone.

Today’s guest blogger is Tricia.  She’s a hip grandma and one of my favorite co-workers.  We often arrive to work about the same time, which is a treat for me.  For one thing, she is one of the kindest, funniest and most genuine people around.  And she has great purses.  She waits until they’re on sale and snatches up name-brand hand bags for pennies on the dollar.

I asked Tricia to be a guest blogger for several reasons:  She is a hip grandma, and I know she’ll provide great inspiration to other hip grandmas out there.  She’s intentional with her gift giving.  She shops early.   And once she told me that she has a spread sheet where she keeps all of her gift giving organized – name, gift, bought, wrapped.  She’s my hero.  And let’s face it, I’ll probably never be that awesome.

I buy gifts for:  Granddaughters and nephews, ages 1-6, our daughter and son-in-law, and other family members ranging in age from their 30’s to their 50’s.  I also buy gifts for a few co-workers and close friends.

Since both of my parents and my father-in-laws are deceased, it’s a real treat to do something extra special for my mother-in-law at Christmas. All three of her sons and our families usually pool our money and buy a big item for her.  It’s always a big surprise, and part of the fun is figuring out how to get her out of her house while the gift is being delivered and set up.

My gift-buying philosophy is:  I LOVE Christmas!  And I enjoy giving gifts my family would not otherwise buy for themselves.  It’s the time of year when I wish I had lots of money so I could buy gifts for everyone I know and even people I don’t know.

Apart from gifts under the tree, we enjoy giving our three granddaughters gifts that last throughout the year, such as horseback riding, acting and ballet lessons, and usually have one large gift for all of them to share.

I do realize that Christmas is not all about the gifts.  I know that it’s about our Savior, Jesus Christ, who was born in a manger and came to earth to die on the cross to forgive us for our sins, and I am so thankful for that, not only at Christmas, but throughout the year.  But I’m also thankful that we have a certain time of year that we can set aside to truly celebrate Him and to show those that we love, in some small way, how much they mean to us by giving gifts and spending time together.

My favorite part of Christmas:  There are so many things I love about Christmas!  I don’t know what to focus on first.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I love to shop!  Therefore, I begin shopping for next year’s Christmas the week after Christmas, when I can find things on sale. I love finding a good deal!  You always have to keep in mind, though, if the gift will still be relevant and useful by the end of the year.

Black Friday is like a religious holiday for my daughter and me.  We both usually have our Christmas shopping finished well before Thanksgiving, but we look forward to leaving home early that morning and spending the day looking for stocking stuffers and visiting with friends and family that we seem to run into every year.

I love Christmas caroling with our church.  I love baking Christmas cookies with our granddaughters.  I love putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the house.  I love the Chrismon service at church.  I love wrapping gifts.  I love the Christmas parade and play put on by our children at church.  I love the anticipation of our 30-year-old daughter who still acts like a child at Christmas.  I love that our 6-year-old granddaughter will take toys from the toy room in our home and wrap one for each family member and be giddy with excitement for them to be opened. I love it all!

My favorite Christmas movie:  A Christmas Story – I just love Ralphie.  And the movie takes me back to when I was a child – sibling conflict, family dynamics, childhood fantasies, parental love.

Tricia’s Gift Ideas

Blurb Book

Blurb Photo Books

Every year I give our daughter a 440-page Blurb photo book I work on throughout the entire year.  It’s 440 pages because that is the biggest size Blurb makes.  She has three small children, which doesn’t leave any time for her to do such things, but she takes hundreds of photos throughout the year.  She always knows she’s going to receive the book, but she’s always so excited to see which photo I’ve chosen to use as the cover, and she can’t wait to find the time to steal away and browse through it page by page.

I like this publishing site because it offers WAY more pages than any other book publisher at a more reasonable price.  And these great gifts are not just for Christmas, but birthdays, anniversaries, wedding gifts, etc.

Eve’s Addiction Monogram Necklace

These necklaces are SO cute and SO popular!

Pottery Barn Sleeping Bags

Pottery Barn Kids Sleeping Bags

Having two sisters, I can remember waking up on Christmas morning to find three of the same gifts “from Santa” under the tree.  One particular year, it was three Susy Smart dolls dressed in plaid jumpers and crisp white blouses, each with their own school desk.  So last year, there were three monogrammed sleeping bags for our three granddaughters in pink, blue and purple under our tree.

Our granddaughters bring these to our house every Friday evening when they spend the night with us.  It’s much easier than making a pallet and they have their own “built in” pillow!

Vintage Flash Cards

These beautiful vintage flash cards are a favorite of our granddaughters.  And it’s always nice to be teaching while you’re having fun.

Custom Christmas Ornament

Custom Christmas Ornaments

I love decorating the Christmas tree each year with these photo ornaments and seeing how much the kids have changed since last year.  These are truly a treasure to give or keep.

 ifrogz boost

iFrogz Boost iPhone Speaker/Amplifier

This handy little gadget is awesome to turn your iPhone into a stereo.  Simply turn on iTunes, place your phone on the box and “voila”, it plays your music loud and clear.

 kids chef hat

Kids Chef Hats

Our granddaughters love to help me cook.  And they feel special wearing their own monogrammed chef hat while doing so.

Cooking Tools

Kids Posable Cooking Utensils

You can’t call yourself a chef without having the proper tools!  These are so much fun, and perfect for your little “helpers.”

Silver Napkin Holder

Napkin Holders and Weights

I love to entertain!  And having this beautiful silver napkin holder with different weights for each occasion is the perfect accessory to fit the theme.

All the other hip grandmas out there – tell us your suggestions in the comment sections!