Gift Guide: For the Gift Exchange

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I have a few gift exchanges coming up this year–one for my office, and one for my new book club. The office one is a white elephant and is going to be super laid back and simple–there’s a $10 max spend, and it will be a fun way to celebrate the holidays as a team before we leave for break (yes, we have a designated break this year and get the week between Christmas and New Years off, which is super nice!). The book club one will involve a larger group of all women, and again, rather than being assigned to a specific person, we each will be bringing a wrapped gift that (hopefully!) anyone in the room will love.

If you’re shopping for a similar occasion and don’t know what to bring, this guide of great gifts under $15 should help with your brainstorming! It can be tempting to resort to gift cards or chocolate, but going the extra mile to find a more meaningful item never goes unnoticed!

What to pick up…

Fun office supplies is generally a safe bet since it will likely get used (and not end up in a junk drawer somewhere) and add a little brightness to the recipient’s work day. I’ve always loved these Kate Spade paper clips! A desk-sized fold out calendar is also a cute yet practical choice.

At under $10, this Lilly Pulitzer journal is affordable and adorable–it seems like everyone always goes through notebooks in an instant!

An ornament-sized set of facial spray and lip balm is perfect for dry winter months.

This pair of lipsticks is only $10 and will get tons of use during holiday party season.

Grab a set of these wine gummies and bring one box to your gift exchange and use the others as stocking stuffers!

This pineapple keychain is cheap, trendy, and useful.

If you’re going for funny, this dinosaur chip and dip set is the gag gift that they’ll actually want.

This card case is under $10 and worth every penny.

A beer and food pairing towel is handy and decorative.

You can never go wrong with an infinity scarf.

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What I’m Loving So Far This Week, #2

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It’s been way too long since I’ve done one of these posts, but I’ll dive right in with a few things that have caught my eye recently!

1) Trader Joe’s Newest Products: It’s no secret I’m a big TJs fan any time of year (as are most of my friends), but I always love when new seasonal products get set out and stumbled upon some gems this week. Be sure to pick up a gingerbread-scented candle (mine is burning as I write this–so good), champagne gummies (not sure what I think of these, as they aren’t quite as sweet as other brands, but I love that TJ has hopped on the bandwagon), and the holiday bath products (hello, macaron soaps!), to name a few.

2) An interview with artist Riley Sheehey: I, like most of Instagram, am a huge fan of Riley’s work and have purchased several watercolor prints from her Etsy shop over the years, both for myself and as gifts. I love the feature on her that came out this past week–it’s always fun to learn more about the actual person behind a brand, and Riley seems wonderful!

3) Red Hen DC: Oh my goodness, I had been wanting to eat at Red Hen for SO long and finally had the chance to do so this week with my mom. We made a very early (5:30 pm) reservation a few weeks back, as it can be pretty difficult to get a table at a normal hour! The pasta (and everything else) was amazing and totally lived up to the hype. After I posted an Instagram story, several DC-area friends and bloggers replied and said just how much they love Red Hen as well!

4) Michelle Obama: A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to receive a (box!) ticket to Michelle Obama’s book talk in DC, and I was absolutely thrilled to go alongside one of my good friends from college. Michelle had the audience captivated the entire time, and everyone left feeling truly inspired and hopeful. Oh, and the cherry on top? Barack Obama surprised the entire audience by making a guest appearance toward the end, and it was incredible to see the two of them together–everyone was laughing, smiling, and enthusiastically screaming! Valerie Jarrett was an amazing moderator and the whole night was so positive and uplifting.

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5) Plants! I’ve become more of a plant lady lately and have been adding more greenery to my upstairs. I’m hoping everyone will survive…my fiddle leaf fig died last spring after only a month or so, prompting me to stick to more low maintenance plants this time around (though I did scoop up a faux fiddle leaf over Black Friday and am waiting for it to arrive in the mail soon!).

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October & November Reads

Photo by Heather Bien
Photo by Heather Bien

I’ve admittedly been a very slow reader (well, for me!) these past couple of months, so I didn’t end up posting an October book roundup. I do love writing about all of the books I pick up, though, because I know people are always looking for more titles to add to their lists…so I’m finally publishing an October and November post with you guys all at once (it’s better to recap the October books late rather than never, right?)! It’s been awhile since I finished some of these, so bear with me as I do my best to recount them!

The Good Luck Charm, by Helena Hunting: I brought this book with me to Charleston and tore through it (I actually did have a good amount of reading time since I was traveling alone, and I wish I’d packed more than one book but was anxious to save valuable bag space since I only brought a backpack!). This is a light, rom-com type read about a couple who dates in high school, parts ways, and then reconnects as 20-somethings dealing with their own challenges (one person is a professional hockey player making major career moves, and the other just got out of a divorce). Of course, they fall in love and remember how great things were the first time around, but they have to work around these adults challenges and determine whether getting back together really is the right choice. Definitely bring this one on vacation if you want to dive into a lighthearted, romantic page turner!

All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin: I’m proud of myself for staying on the library waitlist for months to get to this book…I love Emily Giffin, so I was tempted to snatch it up on Amazon right away! I found the story to be very timely given current events and discussions surrounding male privilege and power (the plot centers around the family of a high school boy from an elite Nashville family who sends a racist, sexist Snapchat that goes viral). Obviously, Emily Giffin couldn’t predict just how relevant her storyline would be when she was writing the novel, but it truly made me think deeply about my own values and male privilege in our society. I couldn’t recommend this one enough!

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, by Jo Piazza: Again, I waited to get this one from the library for quite awhile, but it ended up being available right around Midterm elections, which made it extra fun to read. Charlotte is running for office in her home state of Pennsylvania, having left to work and raise a family in Silicon Valley for many years. In California, Charlotte achieved great financial and professional success, but once she begins her campaign, she moves back to her childhood home and becomes reacquainted with her humble beginnings and former community. She begins to examine her own values and priorities while working to support her family and marriage during a difficult professional period. Again, this book was very timely since Charlotte is running as a Democrat following the 2016 election, so there are many real-world references and challenges highlighted throughout.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, by Christina Lauren: This book kind of reminded me of The Good Luck Charm and was such a fun one to read on the train to New York City. Josh and Hazel meet in college but lose touch for several years until they realize that Hazel’s good friend Emily happens to be Josh’s sister (why this wouldn’t have been obvious to them right away, I don’t know!). They then become close friends and even roommates but vow that their relationship is purely platonic. After a series of failed double dates, they realize that they may be attracted to each other after all…and this discovery presents a series of its own challenges. This book is adorable and will keep you entertained–it’s light without being boring or cliche!

The Intermission, by Elissa Friedland: I loved Elissa Friedland’s first book, Love and Miscommunication, but this one is totally different. It follows Cass and Jonathan Coyne, a married couple living in New York City and preparing to start a family. As time passes, they realize that five years of marriage has taken its toll and what they really need is a little break from one another. Cass moves to LA to pursue a career in showbiz and Jonathan stays in New York and navigates his difficult family dynamics. I read this book over Thanksgiving and it kept me hooked the entire time–it felt very real and I loved how–like several of the other books in this roundup, actually–it was narrated from both the man’s and the woman’s perspective. The only flaw? The characters seemed much older than 32/33–I would have easily pegged them as being in their early 40s, and I don’t think the author was fully in touch with that age group as she was writing (most 30-somethings I know don’t find Instagram to be as mind-boggling as the characters did, for one!).

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Gift Guide: For the Homebody

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Happy Black Friday! This year (like most years) I’ll just be shopping from my couch…but I wish you the best of luck if you’re heading out into the “real world” to buy your gifts IRL! There are so many great sales going on, so I wanted to pop in with another gift guide in case you need an extra dose of inspiration.

I love all of these gifts because they aren’t necessarily things someone would just pick up for herself on a whim (though trust me, I’m tempted by all of them!). These are the perfect picks for the person who doesn’t care whether the weather outside is frightful or delightful…because she’d rather stay in anyway!

Feminism tray: I love this tray’s empowering message, and since it’s only 3 inches by 3 inches, it’s the ideal size to hold jewelry, change, and other miscellaneous items on a bedside table.

Monogrammed napkins: These would be adorable to give to a woman of any age. The pack of four is perfect for someone who likes hosting small dinners.

Hot Toddy kit: If she prefers mixing drinks at home rather than going out to the bar, this kit will keep her occupied.

Bath bombs: Oh, I wish I still had a bath in my bathroom (I just have a super tiny shower!). I miss being able to use all of the fun luxury bath products out there, like this cute set of bath bombs.

Witty doormat: I have a doormat with a fun message upstairs and always get compliments on it. This would make a great gift for someone who’s just moved into her first apartment!

Candle: You can never go wrong with a Volupsa candle. The scents and price point are both amazing! I have several and am always looking to build my collection.

State towel: Cat Studio is one of my favorite companies as of late because I love a good state/city-themed home item (you guys know how much I love my Washington, DC, pillow from them!). This dishtowel will elevate even the most boring of kitchens.

Woven basket: These baskets have so many uses–they can hold plants, blankets, accessories, etc, all while looking super stylish. Fill one up with some of her favorite things and skip any additional wrapping!

 

 

 

 

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Gift Guide: Holiday-Themed Products

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I’m BACK with my normal collage-style gift guides–my computer has been having a lot of issues and I couldn’t access Photoshop, which was such a bummer because I mainly downloaded it to use for product collages this time of year! I love reading all types of gift roundups but think it’s so much easier when you can actually visualize the products being described without having to click on link after link (bear with me as I re-teach myself how to make these look aesthetically pleasing!).

Today, I’m rounding up the best seasonal-themed gifts for the person in your life who just can’t get enough of this time of year.

Sleep mask: The message on this sleep mask is perfect for your friend who can’t get enough of Christmastime.

Holiday pillow: A necessary seasonal touch for her living room couch.

Mr. and Mrs. glasses: This would be the perfect hostess gift for the newlyweds in your life.

Pineapple stocking holder: Everyone loves a gold pineapple figurine…the fact that they exist in stocking holder form is just perfect.

Striped stocking: Pop a bottle of wine into a fun stocking like this one for a unique take on a hostess gift.

Seasonal candle: It seems like no one can get enough of Boy Smells candles, and this one sounds amazing.

Cocktail napkins: A witty message is always essential.

Plaid blanket: This (majorly marked down!) blanket would be the perfect secret Santa gift.

Candle set: Gift all four or split up the set and cross multiple people off your list at once!

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Gift Guide: Gifts for the Home Under $30

These gifts are all home-related, but honestly, I consider them to be appropriate for hostesses, moms, sisters, sisters-in-law, besties, or…yourself! It can sometimes be difficult to find cute, quality products for $30 or less. You don’t want to buy something cheap that won’t last the recipient more than a couple of uses (for example: I hate those cheap wine glasses that you’ll find at HomeGoods and similar stores that have adorable designs but always end up breaking after a wash or two…anyone else know which ones I mean?). But on the other hand, you aren’t shopping for a registry item that’s supposed to last for years and years, so you have some room to get a little thrifty and creative. All of the below products are either items I own or would be happy owning (hint, hint…!) and are easy to scoop up online (so that you can knock people off your list in a matter of minutes).

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Plant shelves: These plant shelves are SO affordable but aren’t flimsy (and you’ll NEVER guess where they’re from)–I just ordered a set for myself and hung them on the wall in a matter of seconds (they have hooks on the back, so it’s super easy). I’m excited to plantify (going to use that as a word from now on) my upstairs and thought these would be the perfect addition to my space. (Pair these with a succulent or two and you’ll be all set with a great gift!).

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Hedgehog measuring cups: I realized the other day that I need a new set of measuring cups–mine are always getting misplaced or have broken or gotten icky over the years. This set adds whimsy to the kitchen and is an excellent price (under $20!).

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Salad serving set: You know you’re adult when you realize you would be ok receiving this kind of gift. The gold makes a practical gift less boring!

tjxCoasters: These marble coasters are very affordable and would be a great hostess gift paired with a bottle of wine.

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Cocktails sign: I’ve been less inclined to purchase small accessories like these as I’ve gotten older, but when I saw this sign, I couldn’t pass it up. It’s the right amount of cheesy and cutesy, and who doesn’t love collecting festive bar cart decor? (I know many people who switch up their glassware/accessories each season!).

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Salt lamp: I recently got a salt lamp at Marshall’s and need to remember to plug it in more because they’re actually supposed to have great benefits in terms of improving air quality in a room (I was just into the look after having seen these in many different rooms and home tours online!).

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Neighborhood print: I stopped by Artists in Fleas during my recent trip to New York and picked up this 8 by 8 DC print at the Archie’s Press stand (I’m a sucker for anything DC-themed and love map art, so when you combine the two, it’s a no-brainer!). This would be an adorable gift for someone new to your city or for a friend who’s moving but wants to remember her hometown. There are a ton of options to choose from, too!

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Boy Smells candle: These candles are all the rage. I have a few and am always spotting them in various stores around DC and online. Candles won’t be seen as a lame gift if they’re stylish!

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New York Times travel book: Your friend who’s always on the go will love this coffee table book (which I’m adding to my list, too!). There are also other options for more outdoorsy travelers. 🙂

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My Favorite Recent Amazon Purchases, Round 2

Photo by Heather Bien
Photo by Heather Bien

Way back in March, I did a roundup of my favorite recent Amazon purchases, and I’ve realized that I need to make this more of a thing, because Prime = life. (I actually cut my Prime subscription for awhile because I don’t use it all the time, but then I got a student offer–long story–and reactivated, which has been super useful!). Here are some of the items I’ve scooped up recently (keep some of these in mind for Christmas presents!):

Silk robe: I wanted a robe to be able to throw on (more because that sounds super luxurious, haha) so I went for this affordable option and am waiting for it to arrive still. It got good enough reviews and will be nice to wear while lounging around the apartment.

Back and shoulder massager: I ordered this heated massager for my mom for Christmas (she doesn’t read here, so we’re good!) after telling her how much I loved my own. This thing is a DREAM if you suffer from achey shoulders (who doesn’t?). I’ve had mine for over a year and love plugging it in while watching tv at night.

Soup mug: This BPA-free soup mug has been perfect for work lunches, and at under $5, it’s a no-brainer. I ordered mine after seeing a coworker using hers at a meeting. It’s great because you can bring soup with you for lunch without having to stash a bowl at work, like I used to do. I’ve used this a ton in recent weeks and have had zero complaints!

Pen set: Every now and then, I like to send a little care package to my sister at college, and recently, I sent her a pack of these colored pens (but obvs had to order a set of my own). I love using them at work and she uses them all the time for note-taking. They write really well and are a great buy!

Decorative box: I picked this up (it’s shown in the picture at the top of this post) after spotting some similar ones in various online home tours. I keep it on my dresser to store some of the smaller necklaces and bracelets that I wear often. The pattern is gorgeous and looks much more luxe than it is for being only $15!

Weighted blanket: I splurged on this over the summer after reading Grace’s highly positive reviews on her blog and hearing her discuss this product on her podcast, and now it’s finally the season to really use it. If you haven’t heard about these, they’re pretty popular right now and are designed to relieve stress and anxiety. I don’t use mine every night but like the extra layer it adds when I’m sleeping.

What are you loving on Prime at the moment?

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My Latest Home Tour Obsession

Umm, ok. This home is truly too good to be true. If this woman ever moves out, I’m moving in and taking over (I always thought it would be awesome to run an inn anyway…but this gorgeous attic apartment above the B&B makes me want to do so even more. You guys know how much I LOVE attics!).

I was browsing Apartment Therapy earlier this week and immediately fell in love with this feature. The space definitely has similar elements to my own attic room, but it’s gigantic and has such a luxurious closet and bathroom (my shower is teeny tiny and barely big enough for me…no room for a tub!). Without further ado, I’ll post a sampling of some of my favorite photos below (but you have to promise me you’ll go and check out the whole tour!). I’m often browsing Pinterest for attic-like spaces anyway, as I love to see what other people have done with similar rooms, so this feature was especially exciting to come across.

Between the abundance of plants, the tucked away bedroom, the gorgeous gold perfume tray, and that cozy-looking living room, I’m SOLD.

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Photos by Jacqueline Marque for Apartment Therapy 

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Gift Guide: Best Presents for Your Sister or BFF

I’m following up Monday’s post with this guide for sisters and BFFs…or even moms who appreciate this kind of stuff! Everything below is something I would totally use/want, too… 😉

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Women’s March Puzzle: Winter goal = becoming someone who sits and home and does puzzles. Is that lame? Maybe. But the message on this puzzle isn’t–complete it to see an image of the Women’s March along with a quote by Gloria Steinem!

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Sad Desk Lunch bag: This is actually a set of two lunch bags, but you could give the one on the left to a younger lady in your life and then keep the funny one/give it to your BFF. I love it!

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Sleep Mask: This sassy sleep mask made me laugh…want! It’s perfect for the girl who’s always on the go and has a good sense of humor.

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Desserts of NYC Book: The title is pretty self-explanatory, IMO! Who wouldn’t love flipping through this prior to their next visit to the city? It would also be a great coffee table piece–instant conversation starter! Just snagged a used copy for myself for $7, thanks, Amazon!

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Pineapple Bookends: I always get a ton of compliments on my pineapple decor, and these Anthropologie bookends are a great price! They would look amazing on either a nightstand or bookshelf.

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Pocket Palette: Ok, I’m so excited to share this product with you guys–Lynda, the founder, is someone I met through work, and she’s built an amazing company from the ground up. The Pocket Palette was designed for the woman on the go who doesn’t necessarily want to tote her entire makeup bag with her on the way to class/an interview/post-work drinks, etc. Each Palette includes a mini mascara wand, lip color, and foundation (several shades are available). I’ve used my PPs several times and adore them–and Lynda! Huge props to her for PP now being available on Amazon (amazing!!!). These would be the perfect stocking stuffer.

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Joanna Gaines’ book: What girl doesn’t love Jo? If you have a Fixer Upper fan on your hands, this book is a must-order! You can never really go wrong with coffee table books in general, as you can probably tell by this point!

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Moroccan Pouf: This pouf comes with an AMAZING price tag (it’s under $50!). Anyone who loves home decor or has been lusting over one of these for ages will be thrilled to find this (rather large) box under the tree. The velvet look is kind of different, but it’s also perfect for cold weather and cozy days at home.

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How I’ve Created a Plant Lady Oasis in My Home

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I’ve been trying to incorporate more greenery into my home over the past year or so, and I made a big trip to the hardware store last weekend to stock up on some new plant babies. I love supporting the independent plant store in my neighborhood when I can, but the truth is that the hardware store has a HUGE selection of plants for amazing prices. It’s truly a little known gem–I was telling some of my local friends about it and they were shocked that it was such a great resource!

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I picked up many of the plants pictured here during my hardware store trip on Saturday, and they ranged from $3.99 to $5.99 each, which is a fantastic deal. I’ve tried buying some cheaper plants at Trader Joe’s, where many of my friends also like to go, but I’ve found that they just haven’t held up as well. The hardware store plants are very affordable but not cheap in terms of quality, at least in my experience–so wherever you’re located, don’t forget about this option if you’re trying to add some life to your space! (There’s also something about being in hardware stores that makes me want to tackle a major home project…all of the workers are so nice and helpful and there are tons of other people walking around picking up supplies for their own interesting projects…I seriously almost left with wood to build my own shelves because deciding that it would cause unnecessary stress!).

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Once I had my plants, I needed to figure out how to display them. I still don’t know if I’m in love with my current setup, but it’s a start. The shelf is something I picked up at HomeGoods on Sunday and is the perfect size for my plants (at least until they grow!). It was a little overpriced but seems to be doing the job. I knew I wanted something with tiers–and in an ideal world, I would have stumbled upon the perfect little ladder shelf–but I couldn’t find anything I liked in stores or online and wanted to just find a solution already (#impatient). The bottom shelf holds books that were sitting on my side table (which I now need to store somewhere), and I love that there’s room for my little gold spray can, too.

I’ve also been pinning tons of plant decor inspiration. Follow along with me as I save more ideas that you can copy in your own home!

 

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