Holidays 2016

A Sensible Gift Guide for: The Last Minute

It happens innocently enough: you pull into the parking lot at work, or you get a text from a friend about a holiday party. And you realize, suddenly, with only 3 days until Christmas... that you didn't get your boss, your mom, your aunt, your whoever, a gift. 

And while it wouldn't be a faux pas to not get that person a gift, it would also be kinda sorta super rude. What's a sensible gift buyer to do? 

Here are some ideas, available at your local mall, Target, or preferred shopping arena. 

1. A pretty (and cheap) palette. 

Have a girly friend that you totally forget to shop for? This palette (not the one pictured, because Sephora likes to change their links on me) is on sale for only $12.00 and features some amazing, neutral tones perfect for any skin tone

2. A preferred beverage & drinking receptacle. 

Coffee? Tea? Wine? Whatever? Pick a favorite (maybe a fancy Starbucks coffee blend or TAZO tea) and a cute mug. Package in a cute little Christmas bag with some tissue paper. Boom. Done.

4. A gift set. 

Burt's Bees gift sets are ubiquitous at my local haunts (Target, WalGreens, Wal-Mart) and are crazy affordable. This one is available at Target for $4.99. The best part about Target is that you can have one set aside via their website and that way, you don't even have to go into the store to look

I also like this one from Tarte. This Soap & Glory Set is only $20 at Ulta. There are tons to chose from and they make instantly perfect gifts. And, just a piece of advice: take the pieces out of the packaging and arrange them yourself. You can find a cheap basket or bin at Target, use tissue paper to make it pretty, and top it with a bow. Instantly personalized and less like you grabbed the first thing you saw. 

5. Fancy lip balm. 

Everyone loves lip balm, whether it's EOS or Tinte. The Tinte Vintage Slider lip balms come in some amazing flavors and you can find them at Ulta. A nice set of lip balms would make an excellent piece to add to another gift on this list. 

6. Socks.

I get ridiculously excited about sock purchases. And this time of year, you can find comfortable, warm socks just about everywhere. I love boot socks from American Eagle and these are on sale right now for only $3.50. You can get a few pairs and another gift for that special (erm) someone.  

5 Tips for Last Minute Holiday Parties

Danny and I don't throw a lot of parties. Living so far outside of a town, we don't have company over very often. When we do, it often feels very last minute: we'll get a text from a friend, or a cousin, or maybe even a brother, and then they'll be at our house. We always try to have something ready--bread in the freezer, something we can throw in the oven, or snacks we can put out. 

For the holidays, it's nice to throw the occasional holiday party. But if you're like me, you forget until the last minute--say, two or three days before and suddenly you remember you have a bunch of people coming over. And they expect food and maybe drinks. 

Here are a few ideas for making any last holiday parties a hit. 

1. Offer easy, do-it-yourself food and drinks. 

My favorites are mimosa bars (a variety of juices and champagne), bagel bars (a few varieties of bagel, two varieties of cream cheese, and some toppings), or baked potato bars (if you're looking for a heartier option). This way, you can just set everything up and that's it. Offer plates, napkins, and that's it. Less work for you and more fun for everyone else. 

2. Minimize clean up by buying what you can. 

Prime example: if you're having a bagel bar at a New Year's Day brunch, don't make your own flavored cream cheese. Bless, it'd be nice, but it's not worth it. Buy the little tubs of flavored cream cheese. Buy dessert items to stack on a tray if you're already making a dinner, or buy the appetizers. Pick the thing you want to make and then cut yourself some slack on the rest. 

3. Keep the decor simple. 

Here are a few ideas for simple decor ideas. My favorite is filling a glass vase with holiday ornaments. There are plenty of ways to make your space a little prettier for a holiday party fast: clean it up, get it organized, and then have one or two cute pieces. 

4. Light a candle.

Get the house smelling like Christmas. I'm talking a Kitchen Spice or Tis the Season scented candles from Bath & Body Works. Something that smells like you've been baking up a storm. It will make your house feel homey and inviting. Perfect for the holiday season. 

5. Relax.

You don't living in Martha Stewart's magazine. Really. You don't. It's ok if you didn't get the kitchen totally decluttered; it's ok if you didn't get a chance to make the entire party look Pinterest worthy. We don't live in magazine editorials. We live in the real world. And your friends and family will probably love you even if the cream cheese is still in the tub you bought it in or you didn't decant the orange juice into a fancy container. It's fine. Celebrate!  

3 Tips to Get Better Christmas Photos of Your Toddler

Taking photos of a one-year-old is more challenging than I ever thought it would be. Forrest is constantly moving, but doesn't stand independently for very long yet--so I can't get those cute standing shots!

I've figured out a few ways to take better photos though. These are just a few of my tips and hopefully, they'll help other moms get those all-important holiday photos. 

1. Give your little one something to hold. 

Best examples: a leaf, a pumpkin, a chalkboard. Something to simultaneously distract them, keep them still, and give them something to focus on. When I use this technique, I know I have maybe a 2-3 minute window to get photos--so I kick it into high gear and hope for the best. 

2. Pick one spot and stick with it. 

If I try to move Forrest around--say to face another direction or to get different lighting--it's over, it's done. He's not gonna do it anymore. That's usually when the tears start or the eatings of rocks and leaves--whatever he knows will get us to go back inside and play sooner. So, my advice: pick one spot you like, watch the lighting, and stick to that one area. If it's a bust, it's a bust--try again later. 

3. Be patient

Toddlers don't quite get the picture thing yet, especially younger toddlers. Forrest is 13 months old and kind of gets what I'm doing--but doesn't really follow instructions. It's important to remember that they don't know what you're doing or why it's important to you. Don't take it personally if they just don't want to cooperate, make faces, or generally make it impossible to get a good photo. 

Want more photography tips? Follow my Photography board on Pinterest!

The Perfect Holiday Bucket List

I get...overly excited about the holidays, I'll admit it. I'm one of those people who get excited once September starts because first, it's Halloween, then it's Thanksgiving, and then it's Christmas. It all is just a snowball: one favorite holiday after another. Then, a stretch of months until summer returns. Oof, that stretch of January through May is hard. So I really believe in making the most of October through December. 

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday; however, as I've gotten older, I've found myself favoring Thanksgiving because it combines my favorite parts of Christmas without the pressure of giving gifts. Either way, though, I consider late October to be the start of the "Holiday season," starting with Halloween.

I wanted to share my holiday bucket list for this year. Sometimes, I frame these things as "goals," but they're not really goals, are they? They won't really improve my life in any way; I just really want to do them. 

So, here it is: my holiday bucket list. 

1. Take Forrest to a Halloween party

I have never been a fan of trick-or-treating, I should probably come clean about that, and I'm not 100% sold on Forrest doing it. I am, however, very into Halloween parties and festivals. Our town has a ton of options--including trick-or-treat at downtown businesses, several Trunk or Treats at local churches, and at least one Halloween festival. We'll be picking our favorite as Halloween approaches and taking Forrest. 

2. Go Christmas light hunting.

This is one of my favorite things to do at Christmas: load up the car with a snack and some hot cocoa and then, just drive around looking at the best Christmas lights. I love the houses that go all out, even if I don't!  

3. Get the perfect Christmas card photo of Forrest.

This is truly a bucket list item, considering the fact that Forrest barely sits still to eat, let alone for a photo. 

4. Buy matching Holiday pajamas. 

5. Find Forrest a really cute, entirely inappropriate outfit for Thanksgiving

I'm talking fancy suit level inappropriate! Last year, I dressed him in a tiny sweater vest at Christmas and it was totally adorable, totally uncomfortable, and totally inappropriate for a tiny baby. However, it made for some great photos, so I refuse to stop doing it. 

6. Sing Christmas carols with Forrest

Forrest is just starting to get the singing thing and he loves music. I like to imagine us dancing around the Christmas tree, in matching pajamas, singing at each other. But most likely, I'll just turn on a Spotify station while we eat breakfast. 

7. Help Forrest put ornaments on the tree. 

We probably won't do a real, or very big, tree this year because Forrest would undoubtedly tear it down, but I really want to get him involved in decorating. 

8. Make Christmas cookies

My absolute favorite Christmas tradition! I'll probably make some eggless cookie dough that Forrest can roll out and safely eat (because most likely, he will just put it in his mouth), and then he will get to try his first real sugar cookie. 

What's on your holiday bucket list this year?