Christmas Gift Giving Guide: Matt, The Guy

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www.accidentalokie.com

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!

https://lh3.ggpht.com/jPeaul_KTKj_kjatDzBARycVXKRI0duR3tewQN1Mcwi2w1ZYMjP5PXR3ESlEgtC1rFw=w499

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.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71fylbI63bS._SL1500_.jpg

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.

http://www.tiffany.com/shared/media/products/24944387_D_1.jpg

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.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61rqNcnNryL._SL1000_.jpg

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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Image via.

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.

http://images.anthropologie.com/is/image/Anthropologie/073732_000_b?$product410x615$

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.

http://www.welcomepup.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/puppypile.jpg

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.

silhouette

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.)

name puzzle

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!

Christmas Gift Giving Guide: Marcy, The Etsy Queen

I’d like you to meet Marcy, the Etsy queen.  Before becoming a mom of two, she had an Etsy shop selling adorable baby headbands.  While her Etsy shop was around, her work was featured on the Etsy home page several times.

I asked Marcy to be a guest gift guide blogger because she has a beautiful and unique style – a mesh of traditional and quirky.  Marcy loves shopping on Etsy, making homemade gifts, and shopping at thrift stores.  She has wonderful gift ideas for little girls.  Marcy is also intentional with her gifts and resources, so I knew she’d have some great ideas for all of you!

Meet Marcy:

I buy gifts for: My husband, our siblings, our parents and grandparents, our two daughters (three years old and one year old), and 13 nieces and nephews (newborn through 13 years old). If time and budget allow, I also love whipping up something special and homemade for our close friends.

My gift-buying philosophy is: If I see an item that screams someone’s name, I always grab it right away – even if Christmas is months away. But with such a long list, and two little “helpers” tagging along, I’m usually scrambling to wrap up my shopping/crafting/creating the week before the big day.

My favorite part of Christmas: I adore family traditions and find such joy in participating in both the meaningful ones and the silly ones each year. Since our family is so young we’re having a blast beginning new traditions with our girls as they grow. On this year’s to-do list: a homemade advent calendar with corresponding activities! Oh – and this ornament activity that celebrates (and teaches the kids) the names of Christ!

My favorite Christmas movie: It’s a tie between National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and It’s a Wonderful Life – both must-watch flicks on my side of the family each year.

 Penguine Classics Books

Penguin’s Hardcover Classics Collection

Every title in this swoon-worthy set of books is gorgeous.  The beautiful fabric covers designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith transform a good read into a piece of art!  A must have for the book worms AND designers on your list!  While you’re not likely to find these floating around in your local thrift store, you can save a bit on Amazon. I’ve gotten them for $8 below the Penguin price there.

Brass Peacock Statue

Brass Animals

I think mixing metals is one of the keys to great design, and the brass animal trend is a great way to bring a gold-tone (and a touch of whimsy!) into a home.  If you are lucky enough to run across one with personal significance (a favorite animal, former school mascot, something from the family crest, etc.), it’ll make this great gift even better.  And it doesn’t really HAVE to be an animal.  But those are my favorites!  The prices on Etsy aren’t bad, but you can save a pretty penny by popping into your nearest thrift store and scouring the shelves for one of these babies.  I recently scooped up a cute little duck and a good sized camel at my local Goodwill for about $3 each.

 Batman Art

Art Prints – Selecting art for someone else can be pretty tricky, so I’d save this one for those closest to you.   On top of Etsy, you can find great deals and lots of sizing options at www.Society6.com, www.20×200.com, www.art.com and other similar sites.  I recently picked up this 8×10 print of an abstract batman from the Polygon Heroes collection as a gift for my husband.  His favorite superhero now lives on our floor to ceiling gallery wall, mixed right in with photos of our children, some of their art, and some thrifted prints and paintings.  It makes him smile, and that makes me happy.

West Elm Hammam Strip Hand Towel

Cute Hand or Dish Towels – Home décor gifts can be challenging to give, since it’s difficult to pin down exactly what someone else will like enough to display in their home.  I think hand/dish towels are a nice exception, since they’re a low commitment décor piece.  Most folks change these towels out pretty often for washing, so having a “special” set or two in the rotation is a welcome treat, even if they don’t turn out to be their everyday style.   I have (and love!) these from West Elm.  Anthropologie tends to have a fun selection, too.  And Etsy never runs dry!  You can search on Etsy for vintage, embroidered, and possibly my favorite – hand blocked options.

If you’re not sold on this, I would place coasters, salt & pepper shakers and magnets in the “low commitment home décor” category as well. Anthropologie has some awesome petrified wood options that I’ve got my eye on right now.

Bower Power Succulents

Photo from Bower Power Blog.

Potted Herbs or Succulents – Try your farmer’s market first, and if you can’t get them there, a local nursery or even a hardware store like Lowe’s or Home Depot should have these.  If you opt for herbs, include a favorite recipe.  A cute little pot, homemade marker (these are cute!) and packet of seeds make a fun alternative.  I don’t think you’ll be surprised when I say that Etsy has a great selection, too.

Accidental Okie says – Bower Power Blog has a great tutorial on making a potted succulent display!

Melissa and Doug Owl

Wooden ToysPlan Toys and Melissa & Doug are a couple of good retail options, and Etsy is a great source for truly homemade wooden toys that cater to a variety of ages (Fun options here, here, here and here). If it’s not addressed in the product listing, I recommend contacting the seller to confirm that the paint used to adorn the toys is safe for babies.  They aren’t wooden, but the felt food baskets from Ikea are adorable, and an ABSOLUTE steal as well.

Doll Pattern

Custom Dolls – A set of very basic sewing skills should be enough to get you through one of these adorable doll patterns (if not, there’s a good selection ready-made on Etsy).   I love this pattern, and this one, but it would be fairly simple to draft your own.  The best part?  Customizing each doll to match the child receiving it.  My daughters will likely find these in their stockings this year!

Handmade mugs

Photo from A Beautiful Mess Blog.

Personalized Dishes – White dollar store dish + porcelain marker = custom gift!  I think mugs or dessert plates are my favorite options here, but a serving platter could be nice too.  Or maybe even creamer and sugar pots.  Hand lettering is all the rage right now, so if that’s a skill you possess, put it to work here!  Or put your kids to work making keepsakes for grandparents, aunts, uncles and teachers. Inspiration, Tutorial, Tutorial, Markers.

Table Card Play House

Card Table Play House – You can find these on Etsy, but the prices are a bit steep, so let those products serve as your DIY inspiration!  There are lots of patterns available for these if you’re not into winging it, too, and you’re just sewing straight lines, which keeps it pretty easy!

Williams-Sonoma Berry Bowl

Cute Colanders – Mini colanders are perfect for rinsing grapes and berries, or draining canned veggies (like beans, which need to be well rinsed to get all the starchy sauce off.  Gross.) without filling the entire dishwasher up with the bad boy you usually use for large pots of pasta.  I have one mini, and it’s constantly in use.  It’s easy to store,  and I’ll definitely be collecting more!  Mine is from Anthropologie (a steal for under $10 last year!), but a quick search on Etsy for “colander” or “berry bowl” will find you a slew of options – from vintage enameled to handmade ceramic and stoneware.

Accidental Okie says: The berry bowl pictured (from Williams-Sonoma) is so cute and only $8.

Christmas Gift Giving Guide: Jen, The East Coast Home Blogger

Every blogger in this series was asked to answer a few questions – the basic demographics of the people they buy gifts for, their gift buying philosophy, their favorite part of Christmas, and their favorite Christmas movie. I hope that you enjoy meeting all these wonderful people throughout the series.

My first guest blogger in my Christmas Gift Giving Blog Series is Jen. She has an amazing home decorating blog, lives elegantly on a budget, and everything she touches turns into a Pottery Barn or J.Crew catalog spread. I hope you enjoy her gift suggestions. Make sure to check out her amazing blog!

***

I’m Jen Migonis from Migonis Home.

I Buy Gifts For:  My husband, AJ, and I buy gifts for immediate family members and their spouses and children and our grandparents and we’ll do fun little foodie gifts for our friends.

My gift-buying philosophy:  Is to buy the recipients something they love and possibly have asked for and shop early to get the best deals. I listen to things the recipient says throughout the year to get an idea of something they may want.

My favorite part of Christmas:  Is without a doubt the anticipation. Or the quietness of a morning before anyone wakes up and I have the living room to myself with the Christmas tree lights twinkling and time to read.

My favorite Christmas movieThe Holiday. I could watch the whole thing and then start again at the beginning.

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Luxury Plush Throw

My first item is this Restoration Hardware’s Luxury Plush Throw. I’m addicted to it. And, it only comes out around Christmas, and it’s marked down to $39 now, which seems expensive but it washes well and I’m cuddled up in ours now. It is the softest thing you could imagine… Drew likes to rub his face in it. 🙂

Last Christmas I bought a bunch of my family members a Coach wristlet. For $27.30. Our budget for family is around $50 so this looked classy, useful and more expensive than it actually was. I’ve signed up for Coach’s Factory emails so I can regularly save 30%. This price allowed me to pair something with the wristlet for a thoughtful gift!

I think it’s tricky to know what do to with some people… and for those people I have two ideas:

Cookies all wrapped up in a special container. My personal favorite is a Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookie. You will think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Here they are not in a container… although they should have been since I couldn’t stop eating them.

An Amaryllis from Target. For $10 you can get the bulb and a really cute pot that looks startlingly similar to one I purchased at Pottery Barn… but of course the photo of the product isn’t on the website yet (this photo was taken from Southern Living). I see them put out before Thanksgiving and they are around $10.

Okay, I know a lot of you may not like braving Black Friday, but let me tell you, I CLEAN UP. Especially in the DVD department at Wal-Mart or Target. I can often find some really fabulous DVDs for between $2 and $5 or I purchase a season of a TV show that AJ and I have just loved… “Modern Family” or “Friends”, anyone? My sister and grandfather are movie people so this works well for them.
Photo taken from here.

An experience…

I am giving my mom, sister and grandmother a date at Cafe Fleuri’s Chocolate Bar. It’s located in the gorgeous Langham Hotel in Boston’s Financial District. The cost is $40 per person and we are doing this fabulous date on December 22… just in time to get some extra weight into our holiday outfits. 🙂

Lastly, the most meaningful gift…

For years I have been giving my Dad something from World Vision’s Gift Giving Catalog. It is such a great opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life instead of trying to make some gift “work”… and my Dad never wants anything. You can find really affordable things if your budget isn’t that large!

Hope this has helped you make some good gift giving decisions! I’d love for you to stop over and see me at Migonis Home.
Tell me, what are your favorite gifts to give?
Jen

Two Things: The Ill-Fated Cake Ball and A Christmas Announcement

Thing 1: The Tale of the Ill-Fated Cake Ball

A few weeks ago, my friends and I had a cake ball making night.  My friend Ashley hosted it.  She was showing me the cake balls which she had pre-rolled for us to decorate.  In a flurry of excitement, she told me about the gluten-free cake balls and the vanilla cake balls at the same time.  I got confused.  And I ate a whole cake ball.  A whole glutened cake ball.

Now let me explain something to you – I am really gluten intolerant.  It is not a lifestyle choice, a fad or a psychosomatic thing. Here are my reactions:

  • A few crumbs or cross-contamination – acne-like rash on face for about a month.
  • 1/8 a teaspoon of a gluten-containing ingredient – Vomiting for four hours.
  • Any more than that – A week of vomiting/other unfun stuff that I will not write about on this blog, ever.

This cake ball contained more gluten than I’ve ingested cumulatively in past six-and-a-half years.  Thankfully, I realized that I ate the wrong cake ball within just a few minutes.  When the discovery was made, my friends and I all looked at each other, all wondering what I should do, and all of us knowing what had to be done.

So I excused myself, went to the bathroom, turned on the loud vent fan, and gagged myself until I puked.  I did it twice, you know, just to be sure.

It felt just like the after-school special I once watched on bulimia. (The very after school special that taught me how to gag myself).  There I was, hunched over the toilet, turning on the fan to dull the noise, sticking my fingers down my throat.  Yes, I decided, I was a cautionary tale.  Only mine was about eating a cake ball, not a life-threatening eating disorder.

In my moment of desperation and melodrama, all I could hear in my head was the Jessie Spano I’m So Excited freak-out song she sings after becoming “addicted to caffeine pills”.  Yes, children of the 80’s, you all know what I’m talking about.  She screams “I’m so excited, I’m so excited.” And then falling to a heap of tears and early-90’s fashion, she’s caught by Zach Morris, and finally she lets out, “I’m so, I’m so SCARED.”

So I was glutened, and then I was throwing up, and then I was laughing to myself about Saved By the Bell.  But somewhere in there, it worked.  I didn’t have even the smallest reaction.  I was very proud of my mental fortitude.

BTW – bulimia isn’t funny, and if it’s something you struggle with, please find someone to talk to.

Thing 2: Christmas Blog Series!

Get excited because my first guest blog series starts tomorrow!  During the month of November and a bit of December, I will be hosting guest blogs every Tuesday and Thursday.  I’ve asked friends from all stages of life, from all around the world, and with diverse tastes, to suggest ten Christmas present ideas.  My guest bloggers are men, women, young moms, hip grandmas.  Some are stay at home moms, some have Ph.D.s.  They hail from Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Massachusets, Australia and England.  Some shop at Pottery Barn and others make their own gifts.

As the guest posts have rolled in over the past week, I have been so inspired by everyone’s amazing gift ideas, and I know you will be too!  So tune in every Tuesday and Thursday.

Make sure to follow my blog by clicking the follow button on the right hand column so that you don’t miss a single Christmas list!