Questions to ask yourself this New Year

Curated, Holidays, Quick Read

With the New Year approaching, now is the time to reflect on your life and goals. Personally, I always find it intimidating to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions with a blank page in front of me.

That’s why I enjoy questions that make you think, like the list below from the Into Mind blog.

If you’re inspired by the questions below, she also has a list of questions to help you reflect on your 2014.

YOUR 2015
  • What do you want the overarching theme for your 2015 to be?
  • What do you want to see, discover, explore?
  • Who do you want to spend more time with in 2015?
  • What skills do you want to learn, improve or master?
  • Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?
  • What do you want your everyday life to be like?
  • Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?
  • What do you want to achieve career-wise?
  • How do you want to remember the year 2015 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?
  • What is your number one goal for 2015?

These questions are from this post on into-mind.com.

Do you take the time to reflect and plan around the new year? Do you make resolutions? Let us know in the comments!

-L

Last-Minute Homemade Gifts

Food, Holidays, Quick Read, Recipes

If you’re anything like me, you either:

(a) tend to do things last minute, or
(b) are cheap. I mean… money-conscious?
or
(c) both of the above.

So for those of us who fit that description, or who simply still have some gifts left to get and who enjoy a homemade touch, read on for some of my favorite homemade gift ideas. These are super simple and inexpensive, and can probably be made with things you already have on hand.

Quick and easy homemade gifts

1. Flavored coffee syrups

Guys, you would not believe how easy coffee syrups are to make. I make myself a batch of vanilla syrup for my coffee every few weeks, and it literally takes five minutes of effort.

Here’s what you do:

  • Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in saucepan
  • Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and stir until sugar dissolves
  • Stir in 1 teaspoon of any flavoring you like (i.e. vanilla extract, peppermint extract, almond extract)
  • Let cool and then store in an airtight glass container

I purchased these glass bottles at my neighborhood kitchen supply store, filled them with flavored syrups, and stuck some pretty labels on them. Definitely a popular gift with coffee drinkers.

Store the syrup in the fridge and it should stay good for several weeks.

(image source & peppermint syrup recipe)

2. Handmade jewelry

Depending on your level of craftiness, you could do a lot in this department. Personally, I have less crafty talent than Martha Stewart has in her pinky finger, but I still managed to make the bracelet pictured above.

Search around on Pinterest, find some pretty DIYs, and hit up your local craft or bead store. Handmade jewelry doesn’t have to mean plastic beads spelling out “best friend” like we made in summer camp. With a little thought and effort, you can make something similar to what you’d see in a store selling for thirty bucks.

Seriously, if I made that bracelet above, anyone can do it. Find the instructions here.

3. Personalized mugs

I don’t know about you, but I love mugs. If a friend took the time to create a mug just for me, I’d be thrilled.

This is another DIY where Pinterest is your friend. I think Sharpie mugs are the easiest, but there are tons of other ideas for people of varying levels of craftiness. This gift is pretty, functional, personal, and cheap. All it costs is a few bucks for the mug, and maybe a few more for markers or glitter or whatever.

(image source with instructions for Sharpie mugs)

4. Hot fudge

This is another one that I make for myself quite often.

Since it’s the holidays, you could make peppermint hot fudge and put it in a festive jar, like the photo above.

Or you could go for good old fashioned bittersweet hot fudge. Like with the coffee syrups, a glass jar and a pretty label go a long way in making this a thoughtful gift.

~

Happy gifting! What are your favorite homemade gifts?

-L

Gift Guide for the Girl on a Budget

Books, Fashion, Holidays

Budgeting gifts can be a bit overwhelming.  Friends, family, coworkers, pets.  On my list are mom, dad, brother, four of my closest girlfriends, one office party gift and a white elephant gift.  I have been prowling the internet for affordable gifts guides, and by affordable I mean under $25 to adhere to the price limit for the office and white elephant gift.  So far I have seen under $100 from The Zoe Report and under $50 from chicityfashion.com, which just won’t do!  So here’s what I’m getting for my people.

For the moms:

Polychroma DOF Glass

Chocolate Book

Dads/Brothers:

’47 Brand Seattle Seahawks Hat

Mobile Phone Bike Mount

Girlfriends:

They have 10 other cities to choose from as well!

City Beanie

Gold Stemless Wine Glasses

495706_STEMLESS_WINE_FACETED_GOLD

 

Office Party:

Abhati Hanging Lantern

I added a mini bottle of Whiskey and stuck it in the lantern too 😉

490190_490441_490194_EO_ABHATI_LANT_HANG_GRN_DD_FAMILY

 

For an office with a younger crowd:

Clip String Lights

  

White Elephant:

Friday Night Wine Glass (My Favorite Gift)

480169_FRIDAY_NIGHT_WINE_ GLASS_ver2

 

Happy Hippo Biscuits

happyhippo

 

My favorite places to look for gifts are Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and World Market.  I tend to look for unique/fun items that whoever I am gifting them to would not pick out themselves but will love!  Urban Outfitters has tons of quirky books and funny items like a stuffed animal grumpy cat, and is great for both men and women of all ages.  I’d go to Anthropologie for the more refined gifts, for those people who love pretty, sparkly things.  Their home goods are spectacular and will add a bit of flair to any home.  World Market has everything, and great quality for the price you pay.  Shop away!

-S

What to read: Holiday Season (Part 3)

Books, Holidays

Welcome back for the final installment of What to read this holiday season.

Now, even as someone who celebrates Chanukah and has a late-December birthday that tends to get forgotten (bitter? me? never!) I still enjoy stories that make me feel like I’m in a winter wonderland. They go so well with hot cocoa and a warm, fuzzy blanket!

If you’re in the mood for some feel-good holiday stories, read on!

Holiday Cheer

My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: Twelve Holiday Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins

Twelve festive and romantic stories by bestselling young adult authors, including Gayle Forman, Rainbow Rowell, and Laini Taylor. The stories are full of the magic of love, friendship, and the holiday season.

LET IT SNOW by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Three interconnected stories begin with a Christmas Eve snowstorm. Watch the love unfold with an escape from a stranded train, a midnight trek to a Waffle House, and an early-morning shift at Starbucks. If all snowstorms were as romantic and exciting as this one, we’d all say let it snow.

BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY by Helen Fielding

A classic. To me, Bridget Jones’s story feels like the holidays. Painfully awkward family get-togethers, occasional bouts of self-loathing, and, of course, romantic things happening in the snow.

~

Happy holidays and happy reading! Tell us, what are your favorite holiday reads?
-L

In case you missed it, check out the rest of this series:

{Family | Escape | Holiday Cheer}

What to read: Holiday Season (Part 2)

Books, Holidays

As magical as the holidays can be, sometimes we just need to get away. Away from our families shouting at televised football games, away from relatives who ask too many questions about our love lives, away from the cold, gray weather.

That’s why part two of this series is all about escape.

Curl up in front of the fire with one of these books and let the winter blues melt away.

Escape

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller  The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley  The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller

A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs Waller

It’s 1909, and Victoria Darling has just been expelled from her French finishing school for posing nude for her painting class. In the wake of her scandal, Vicky is willing to do anything to get accepted to the Royal College of Art — even marry the awful beau her parents have chosen for her. When she befriends a suffragette and begins to fall for a boy beneath her class, Vicky questions everything she’s been taught about her world.

THE WINTER SEA by Susanna Kearsley

Carrie McClelland moves to a small Scottish village to write a novel about an 18th century battle fought at nearby Slains Castle. When she discovers in her research that her own ancestor lived at the castle, Carrie delves deeper into the history of the era — deeper than she ever thought possible. Turns out history is not dead, and her family has some unfinished business.

THE LOST CROWN by Sarah Miller

Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. The last Romanov daughters come to life in this re-imagining of the last years of their lives. Poignant, thrilling, and heartbreaking, this tale might give you a new appreciation for your own family — annoying relatives and all.

~

What books do you read to escape? Suggestions welcome!

Happy reading!
-L

Check back for the final installment of What to read this holiday season.
{Family | Escape | Holiday Cheer}

In case you missed it, here is What to Read, Part One.

What to read: Holiday Season (Part 1)

Books, Holidays

The holidays are magical for plenty of reasons: comfort food, snow, twinkly lights, and, of course, vacation time. To me, vacation means one thing above all. More time to read!

Holiday reads should be fun, uplifting, and quick — something to pick up while you’re stirring cake batter, or in a food coma from said cake.

Whether you tear through books year round or you’re just looking for one to read on your flight home, check out my recommendations for this holiday season.

First in this three part series: family.

Family

For better or worse, this time of year means quality family time. These books explore the concept of family in all its strange, confusing, and heartwarming forms.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown

Three grown sisters return to their parents’ small-town home. Cordy, a lonely wanderer; Bean, fired from her big city job; and Rose, an academic trying to hold the family together. Old arguments and new secrets make for a rocky reunion, as the sisters re-learn how to love each other — and themselves. No matter how far you travel, you always end up where you’re meant to be.

GARDEN SPELLS by Sarah Addison Allen

The women of the Waverly family are heirs to an enchanted garden. Claire has built a life as a chef, using her grandmother’s mystical recipes to spread love and joy to the people of her town. When her long-lost sister returns with a daughter in tow, the women must learn how to share their magic — and their lives. A sweet, magical read.

LOVE WALKED IN by Marisa de los Santos

When Cornelia Brown — a spunky, fiercely independent 30 year-old — meets eleven year-old Clare, abandoned by her erratic mother, the two form an improbable and life-changing friendship. A heartwarming story about the families we choose for ourselves.

~

What are your favorite books about family? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading!
-L

Check back for What to read this holiday season, parts 2 and 3.
{Family | Escape | Holiday Cheer}