Monday, December 28, 2015

December Budget

The most wonderful time of the year (as well as the year itself) is coming to a close, and I am sitting here in a bit of a consumption coma. Lots of buying happened this month -- many gifts, of course, and many purchases for myself. I hit the after-Christmas sales. Hard.

I'd tried to avoid shopping too much over the past month or two because I knew prices would be great after the holidays, and they were. I missed a few items due to sell out (and a number of items mentioned aren't linked below because they are now out of stock), but I think it's just fate reminding me I can't have everything.

Starting Budget: $250 ($200 of my regular monthly budget, plus $50 because I returned this sweater and these shoes purchased previously)

H&M Jeweled Sweater ($10, on sale) -- this is my favorite buy this month (a tough call to make because I love sooo many things). The color is so rich and gorgeous -- I think it would look great on many people, but in particular I think it is really striking on brunettes. I've already worn it twice, once for Christmas morning brunch (over leggings and sparkly slippers) and once for an impromptu holiday gathering with high school friends (with ponte pants and chunky black pumps). I'm considering buying another one because the price is ridiculous (the one I bought was size large, which was very roomy and oversized; a medium would be more fitted, perfect with jeans or dress pants).

H&M Printed Sweater ($8, on sale) -- a simple little lounge top, perfect with leggings for lazy weekends (or weekdays, honestly, since I work from home). Nice for layering on those rare chilly Florida mornings. I like the stars :)

Anthropologie Splitneck Henley ($50, on sale) -- I've been eyeing this since September and I finally caught my size in stock for a great price. I got the large because I wanted it to be roomy and oversized -- reviews are very accurate in that it runs small (at least one size, maybe two).

Ava + Viv Sequin Skirt ($35) -- you never know where you'll find a gem. A friend of mine showed up to a holiday party wearing this amazing skirt and I all but snatched it off of her when she walked in the room. It is that perfect piece that is fancy but not fussy. When she told me it was from Target my eyes about popped out of my head, and I was floored to hear it was from their new-ish plus size line Ava + Viv. Plus size options are typically the worst so good on you Target for designing this winner. I wasn't sure the skirt would fit me (I can range from a 6 to a 12 depending on brand but mostly fall into 8s and 10s), but I ordered the smallest size they had (X, which is a 14-16) and crossed my fingers. Success! What helps is that it has an elastic waist, creating a much more forgiving fit. I'm also a bit pear-shaped, so the hips that I am always cursing come to the rescue here. I'm also experimenting with pinning it a bit on the side for a more secure fit. It's great little party skirt and looks much more expensive than it's price tag -- I can't wait to wear it with a simple button down blouse, a little velvet blazer, and even a graphic tee. So many possibilities.

H&M Printed Sweatshirt ($20, on sale) -- I don't know why, I just wanted it. I like my loungewear, what can I say?

Loft Speckled Shirt ($17, on sale) -- a twist on a basic black sweater -- the speckled print adds a bit of interesting texture.

H&M Sequin Sweater ($35) -- I loved this so much I paid full price. This rich emerald green color is my kryptonite (it's deeper and prettier in person), and I liked the placement of large paillettes. It's fun and festive without being too over the top.

H&M Cable Knit Cardigan ($20, on sale) -- I've been searching for an ivory cable knit cardigan for about a year (it's on my wish list!). I'm not big on belting things, so I'll probably wear it with the belt tied in the back.

J. Crew Striped Shirt with Bow Detail ($24, on sale) -- I have too many striped shirts, but I have NONE that are tied in the back with shimmery ribbon bows. I couldn't not buy this. The fact that I waited until it went on sale is basically a miracle (I'm expecting the Dope Pope to nominate me for sainthood any day now). This got scooped up fast in J. Crew's 40% off sale sale, so it was totally worth my being late for a family brunch while I furiously loaded things in my card and whipped my credit card out.

J. Crew Tippi Sweater ($35, on sale) -- I've never owned a Tippi sweater, but I know several devotees and I feel like this will easily work into my existing wardrobe (pairing with the jeans, pants, and leggings I wear almost daily). This bright ocean color is beyond gorgeous.

J. Crew Parker Crossbody ($47, on sale) -- I've never seen this bag in person but I am hoping it is as sweet and lovely as it seems in the photo. The lipstick pink color is punchy but not too saccharine sweet.

J. Crew Boatneck Tee ($20, on sale) -- Pink and orange is my favorite color combo, and it's unusual to see these sort of candy colors paired in a classic Breton stripe tee. I'll be saving it for spring and summer, it seems ideal for those early warm nights.

H&M Jacquard Knit Sweater ($13, on sale) -- an impulse buy. I'd seen it in store a few weeks ago and it seemed so cozy. I'm not sure I'll get many chances to wear it this year (hello insanely warm winter), but it is making me want to plan some sort of ski trip so I can rock while drinking cocoa in the lodge (I don't actually ski, but I'm an apres-ski pro).

Gap Cozy Bold Stripe Scarf ($12, on sale) -- I couldn't stop thinking about it after posting about it weeks ago. It's a want more than a need, making it a perfect after Christmas buy.

Forever 21 Beaded Jacket ($50) -- looks so much more expensive than it was. Perfect topper over a tank and jeans for easy nights out.

Anthropologie Celestial Slippers ($44) -- a little gift for myself. Fancy slippers are a happy little luxury. These are on a nice sale and would be great to pick up as a gift for Christmas 2016 (yes, I sometimes buy gifts a year in advance. I'm sure that is stage one hoarding, but I don't care).

Total: $388

I'm about $100 over, which isn't ideal but it could have been worse. Also, a number of these items haven't arrived yet so I do think there's a chance that one or two may end up being returned.

I thought I'd also mention a few items I got for Christmas -- they are already very happy additions to my wardrobe!

This bag doesn't look like it came from H&M, and it does a good job of scratching my itch for a Marc Jacobs hobo. I've been dying for a black watch plaid blanket scarf -- this one looks great with basic black and navy tops. I have these earrings in green and wear them a lot, so I know this coral pair will get a lot of love. And I love this palette of cool shadows from Buxom (they have a primer built in, which is great because I am lazy about that sort of thing).

Hope you had a wonderful December and most importantly, enjoyed spending time with the people you love. I've always thought of myself as a fairly grateful person -- I have a generally happy life filled with amazing friends and family, and I don't take them for granted even for a minute. Still, this time of year provides an even better reminder that what matters most in life is the people you share it with and the good work that you do. So while it's fun to collect beautiful baubles and sparkly skirts, they're just a bit of icing on the cake.

Linking with Fran and the budgeting bloggers - I'm so curious to see what fun things everyone found this month!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gift Guide: Dear Santa...

So my gift shopping is almost done -- I have piles of presents stashed everywhere, waiting for the elves to come and wrap them (that's a thing, right?), so I thought I'd make one more little guide: the perfect gifts for Santa to put under the tree for me. A few are a bit of a stretch but it can't hurt to ask, right?

gg: dear santa

Staub x Goop  Cookware

Well of course Gwyneth would enlist Staub to create this special collection of their cookware -- white enamel with gold knobs, have you ever seen anything so elegant? I am very much in need of a new set of good pots, and these would look amazing in my kitchen.

Gucci Multicolored Striped Dress
I saw this rainbow-striped dress in my local mall (it's pretty fancy) and fell in love. I didn't dare look at the price tag while under the watchful eyes of the stern looking salespeople -- weeping in public isn't fun anyway, it was more pleasant to cry it out at home over my keyboard. Still, I can't help but covet it. Santa, I promise I'll definitely I wear it once a week for the rest of my life...
Frends Layla Headphones
I have always been a cheapie earbud kind of girl, but I admire ladies who have their act together and sport a pair of chic headphones in the airport or on the subway. Frends makes the most fashionable ones, and I love the rose gold and white combo.

MoviePass Subscription
I see this ad on Facebook at least once a week and I'd really love to have a MoviePass subscription. It's kind of like Netflix for movie theaters, and I LOVE watching movies in a big, dark theater (where no one can see how much popcorn I'm shoveling in my face). 
Buxom Dolly's Wild Side Palette
I never would have noticed this Buxom palette (the pink cheetah print is...distracting), but it was a recommendation from the Anthropologie salesperson I befriended on Black Friday (it was so crowded I decided I wasn't waiting in line, but I chatted up a super friendly associate and couldn't help but notice her flawless makeup. Turns out she used to work at Sephora and had SO many great product recs). These cool shades look perfect for my fair-skinned green-eyed self.

Goop x Valentino Minidress
Gwyneth strikes again. Damn you and your $10K tutu. If Santa really is always watching he knows I'll probably spend New Year's Eve curled up on the couch, but this little dress would really be the perfect thing to wear for my pizza and Twilight Zone marathon.

Stella Eau de Parfum
One gift I can count on is a big old bottle of Stella -- it's my signature perfume and I love a new bottle for the new year. I wish they made it in a gallon size, I'd bathe in it if I could.

Anthropologie First Snow Infinity Scarf
This cozy, cheery infinity scarf is so me. I love the rainbow colored yarn, made even better with subtle sheer sequins. 

Fuji Photo Printer
I included this photo printer in my gift guide but I'd really love one for myself. I'm old enough to miss the tactile feeling of real photos, and it's nice to have snapshots that I can stick on my fridge, bulletin board, or desk. Passport Cover

This passport cover was also in my gift guide, and I haven't stopped thinking about it -- that's always a good sign.

Clare V. Tote
This tote isn't really practical, but it's so pretty and fits perfectly with the kind of shimmery/etherial vibe that I am clearly digging right now.

Tamara Mellon Butterfly Lace Shirt
Jennifer Lawrence wore this top on a talk show a few weeks ago and I immediately went into frantic search mode for it. I was hoping this was a case where her stylist wanted her to seem "relatable" by rocking some great Zara top, though I feared that it was some insane Dior number. Turns out it was something in between, but still way out of my price range. I wonder how Santa's elves are at making lace?

Banana Republic Faux Fur Vest
I love the look of a fur vest but I always feel a bit costume-y when I try to wear one myself. This one, with a little less fur and a bit more of a cool knit pattern, seems very wearable.

Finally, what I really want most right now is the opportunity for travel. There are a lot of reasons I haven't been traveling as much in recent years, some of them a bit complicated. Still, I have days that I need to stay away from Facebook completely because I have serious pangs of jealousy when I see others' travel updates (some of my friends are serious globe trotters). Santa, can you help a girl out? I'd love to visit Hawaii...and Ireland, and also Amsterdam. And Acapulco. Also Bali. Morocco, too. And Paris, always Paris.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gift Guide: Anyone/Everyone

This installment of the gift guide is a bit different. Some years you may find that you're a bit short on time, money, or creativity when it comes to your gift list, but you still want to show your love. In this situation, I like to find one gift that I can give multiples of -- you're basically giving the same gift (or variations of it) to lots of people on your list. These gifts are all super affordable, too (because it's the thought that counts).

For example: I have a group of friends and we make a habit of this -- the four of us met a few years ago as part of a running club, and when we exchange gifts we always buy the same thing for each person. It makes gift giving a bit easier, and those gifts take on a bit of a special feeling because they remind us of our happy little group.

Am I making any sense? Let's take a look at some ideas and maybe things will seem clearer..


WHO YOU'RE SHOPPING FOR: as many people as possible

One of my favorite "multiple" gifts is a batch of my homemade Christmas cookies in a pretty jar or plate. I always spend a Saturday in December baking up some tasty holiday treats, and they make a great gift for lots of people on my list. I ordered a few of these CB2 jars to put cookies in because they're just the cutest and I know my friends will love putting them to use after the cookies are gone.
For something at a lower price point, you could try these pretty tins. HomeGoods is also brilliant for this kind of thing, I've found some really fantastic plates and platters.

Ornaments are perfect if you want one gift for lots of people. Look for an ornament that has some meaning -- these sparkly snowflakes are perfect for that friend who invites you to go sledding every time it snows. She'll love something pretty for her tree and she'll think of you every year when she pulls it out. Anthropologie has great options, and I like a lot of the ornaments from Dot and Bo.
It's fun to give your BBFs the same piece of jewelry -- like this funky bracelet that has an old school friendship bracelet vibe -- because wearing it is a nice reminder that your squad is always with you. You probably have to get one for yourself, too.

A great book is a fantastic gift and a great way to tackle lots of names on your list. Rather than giving the latest best-seller-soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture, think about giving copies of a book that is really meaningful to you (if you're a nerd like me, you could add a little note in the cover telling them why you think they'd like it or what makes the book special). I give A Dog's Life to every animal-lover in my life (it's hilarious, such a great little read). Everyone can learn something from The Alchemist. And I Was Told There'd Be Cake is perfect for any 20- or 30-something who's still trying to find herself.

One of my go-to gifts is these cashmere gloves from Uniqlo and a great scarf. They're practical, sure, but Uniqlo's affordable cashmere makes a basic feel a bit more luxe. When I lived in NYC I would add a pashmina (there's a vendor on every street corner and you can find some seriously pretty prints) -- today I'd probably go with a cozy blanket scarf.

I'm not super crafty, but I like to flex my inner Martha every so often. Handmade gifts are so special, and they can also help stretch a tight budget. Several years ago I made my own snow globes (using these instructions from Martha herself) and they were a big hit. I really loved this tutorial for festive ball ornaments on The Stripe (bookmarking for next year). Each year it seems like the people on my list have fewer and fewer needs, so I think next year I'm going to attempt some more homemade options.
If you're looking to give the same gift in multiples but still want to add a special touch, you can't go wrong with something personalized -- initials, monograms, and nicknames make a present unique. You could buy a handful of these delicate initial rings to daintily decorate the fingers of your friends (and these tiny boxes will make wrapping a breeze, too). Mark and Graham is a great source for personalized everything (luggage tags and passport covers are smart for just about everyone). And preppy J. Crew has been monogramming everything for years.

Photo calendars usually fall under the category of "great idea, kind of cheesy in reality". But I love this beautiful and modern little calendar, which will do your Instagram-worthy photos justice. You could make one with family photos for all of the extended relatives or throwback photos for all of your old college friends. And if you're a great photographer, you could make one with your best travel/nature/candid photos and give everyone on your list a bit of your artistic spirit.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gift Guide: Secret Santa

I've done quite a bit of shopping, but I'm not done yet. Up next, some gift ideas for those secret santa type gifts that we inevitably need to get. My office does a gift exchange thing during our holiday lunch (which is always entertaining, since my co-workers are really quite different), and one of my girlfriends organized a big holiday dinner for the girls, complete with a white elephant gift swap.

WHO I'M BUYING FOR: co-workers and my group of girlfriends (though I won't necessarily be buying for someone specific)

I'm looking for fun gifts that are whimsical but still a bit useful. The kinds of things that the recipients never knew they needed but are totally excited to get.

WHO YOU'RE SHOPPING FOR: your secret santa...that one person on your list who you don't really know that well...your gift closet (always good to have a spare gift or two, just in case)

Diamond Flask, $20
A little bling to class up her day drinking. I might buy these in bulk and give them out to all of my coworkers, it's been a tough year.

The Taco Cleanse, $18
I mean, who doesn't need this? What a delicious way to kick off the new year! Add in a bottle of tequila if you're looking for a beefier gift.

Sparkle Bark, $28
A winner on name alone, this is like your classic peppermint on steroids. It's pink! And sparkly! There are pop rocks! Picking this up for a couple of people on my list (bonus: I don't like peppermint, so I don't have to worry that I'll eat it all before Christmas).

Sriracha2Go, $7
An ingenious little way to keep everyone's favorite spicy condiment at hand. Most of my friends and coworkers are sriracha-obsessed; some of them literally carry a bottle with them wherever they go, but this seems considerably easier.

Blugo INC Portable Bluetooth Speaker, $36
I can't attest for the quality, but the idea of a teeny little speaker that you can carry anywhere, including on your keychain, is pretty amazing. There are a couple of color options, but I like this pink sparkle version option that is clearly a party in your pocket.

Corkcicle, $12
Every home needs this clever little tool that helps quickly chill wine. Paired with a decent bottle of wine, this will be the white elephant gift everyone is fighting over.

Tarot Cards, $20

A deck of tarot cards is always fun -- aren't we all a bit curious about what the future holds?
Rifle Paper Company Weekly Calendar Mousepad, $12
A really pretty and useful gift, perfect for your cubicle-mate or favorite co-worker. This comes in lots of pretty prints, but I like the chic combo of pale pink and leopard. Passport Cover, $24
I love this cheery pattern, which will make a passport super easy to find in that enormous carry-on everyone seems to travel with these days. A nice gift for a road warrior colleague.

Carry-On Cocktail Kit, $25
Air travel is fairly barbaric these days, but this little kit adds a little Mad Men glamour back into business class. Also super handy for keeping at your desk, because we've all had those days.
Elephant Ring Holder, $10
Is an actual white elephant a little too on the nose? Sometimes I can't resist a bit of sass, but this is actually a great little gift -- a ring holder to add a little personality to her jewelry storage.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Gift Guide: The Kiddos

There are a lot of adorable kids in my life -- my friends have lots and lots of kids, which means I get to play aunt to so many little munchkins! I'm always thinking about them during the holidays and as I like to maintain my status as Favorite Grown-Up, I definitely make sure to show up bearing gifts.

When you're not a parent, I find picking out gifts for kids is tricky. It's impossible to keep up with trends or keep tabs of what everyone has, so I often just straight up ask: mom and dad, tell me what to get your kid or I'm buying her a set of drums. But if they can't give you any guidance, I have some ideas..

gg: the kiddos

WHO I'M SHOPPING FOR: my friends' kids

Most of my friends have handfuls of little ones, so often I think about buying a family gift rather than a bunch of individual ones. Most of these kids get LOTS of presents over the holidays, and part of my gift philosophy is being mindful of people having too much stuff. Family gifts can also encourage kids to share and play together...all good things!

WHO YOU'RE SHOPPING FOR: kids, pretty much

Box Creations Pirate Ship, $32
An adorable way to let the little ones be creative. This pirate ship will let them act out their swashbuckling, Captain Sparrow fantasies. They can also color and draw all over it -- I'm hoping this means that once in a while they'll stay occupied for an hour so I can have an adult conversation with their mom. Pretty please?
Mini Foosball Table, $20
Foosball is just a crowd pleaser. It's a little retro, so you may be introducing this classic to the little ones for the first time, and they'll think you're very cool. I'm giving this to my cousin's kids (I'm probably going to also add in the air hockey version as well), and I think we'll all have fun playing each other on Christmas Eve.

Darth Vader and "Ice Princess" Hooded Towels, $18+

These hooded towels are so cute and perfect for those kids who just love a good soak. There are plenty of animal characters out there, but I love these Darth Vader and Elsa inspired versions.

Minecraft Handbook Collection, $21

I don't really know what Minecraft is, but I've faked my way through a lot of conversations with young friends. If you know a crew that digs this game, they'll love this set of handbooks that will let them build bigger and better virtual worlds.

Kid Made Modern Kit, $25
Craft kits are great gifts -- all kids need opportunities to express their creativity (and a few hours aways from screens). This one lets budding architects build their own dream house.

BeanBoozled, $8
When they've outgrown Candyland, try Bamboozled. This is just silly fun - you take turns eating different JellyBelly jelly beans -- each color comes in two flavors (one nice and one naughty), and you won't know which is which until you pop it in your mouth. I'll bet they've never tried a centipede flavored candy before...

Viewmaster Virtual Reality Viewer, $30
First you'll have to explain what a ViewMaster is, but then they'll totally dig this cool virtual reality version. You do need a smartphone, so make sure your r have access to one they can play with (note: do NOT volunteer yours; they will break it).

Metropolitan Museum of Art Wooden Art Kit, $25
Art sets are really wonderful gifts. Any kid could use new colored pencils, markers, and paints, and just think about the creativity that you might be unleashed! This one is from The Met -- make sure they promise that you get first dibs on any masterpieces that might be hanging there one day.

Wonderful Objects Subscription Box, $54+
If you're gifting from a distance, a subscription box could be a really fun gift. Wonderful Objects sends quarterly boxes full of all kinds of fun things to discover -- most kids really love getting mail (I used to save all of my junk mail for one little peanut, he just adored playing with it), so after the box arrives the goodies inside will just be a bonus!

Inside Out, $25/Mouth Popcorn Subscription, $112
This monthly popcorn subscription is great for the family that does a regular movie night. This would make a great present along with a copy of one of my favorite family-friendly movies -- this year, it's definitely Inside Out.

Crumbs Giant Cupcake Mix, $30
I've given this before and it was a huge hit: a kit that let's you bake an enormous Crumbs Bake Shop cupcake that will literally serve the whole family. Perfect snowy day activity. (Note: check your local HomeGoods or TJ Maxx as I always see tons of these in the kitchen section, usually for about half the price).

If you need a few extras...

A giant gummy bear on a stick might just be the wackiest/coolest gift they've ever gotten.

Almost every child I encounter is eager to show me their latest "tattoo" -- these shiny ones are pretty.

Sometimes I worry about buying something that the kids already have -- I don't think that's a problem with a rainbow stripe unicorn horn.

You don't have to be a scout to want some funny patches, perfect for jackets or backpacks.

I don't really know what to do with washi tape but I think it's huge with middle schoolers.