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Favorite Things gift exchange

10 Dec

For the third year in a row, my five girl friends and I have done a “Favorite Things” gift exchange. Very similar to Oprah’s “Favorite Things” shows of the past, (except not at all like her multi-million dollar gifts) we assign a price-per-gift limit ($10 this year) and buy 4–of the same–of one of our favorite things to hand out at the gift exchange. I love this idea because there’s something really fun about sharing something that you personally love with your friends. In my circle, we each have sort of different styles and degrees of high-maintenance but somehow, this gift exchange just works. With me being the self-professed most high-maintenance in the group, I find it entertaining to push my less high-maintenance friends a wee bit out of their comfort zone with my gifts. At least this year I didn’t hand out thongs (you think I’m kidding, don’t you?).

So, while it’s not necessarily style-related, I thought you might get a kick out of seeing what we gave and received in our “Favorite Things” gift exchange this year:

First up is the gift that I gave everyone: My favorite mascara for bottom lashes only. The brush is perfectly sized for reaching the tiny lower lashline and the formula is super smudge and water-resistant, so that you don’t end up with clumps or “raccoon eyes.”

Available here: Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara

And, here are the gifts that I received…the favorite things of my friends:

First up, from my friend, Sarah: the marvelous baker and lover of all kitchen gadgets…a spatula that doesn’t touch the counter when you set it down! Brilliant!

Joseph Elevate Spatula

Available here: Joseph Elevate Spatuala

Next up, from my friend, Elizabeth–her favorite fragrance–that even her fragrance-averse husband (not only) tolerates, but loves:

Available here: L’Occitane Verbena Frangrance

And, last but not least, my friend, Stacie who (along with Sarah <above>) has reignited our interest in jigsaw puzzles–and caused quite a neighborhood trend of puzzle-exchanging–gave us each one of these:


Available here: Eurographics 1000 piece puzzles

At our Favorite Things exchange brunch

At our Favorite Things exchange brunch

(Our friend, Katie was sadly ill today and couldn’t attend, hence the missing favorite thing from my list.) 

This is my favorite way to exchange gifts. It’s so much easier than trying to guess what someone else might like and it’s fun to try something that you  might otherwise not have tried. Do you have any fun ways of exchanging gifts with your friends?


SAO Says: Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

3 May

Jenny J: I think the key to a good Mother’s Day gift is to give something that she’d never spend money on for herself. For me, that would be a gift card to a store that I love, but don’t often buy anything from (Lululemon, Anthropologie, Sephora, Nordstrom). For instance, a Target gift card is always, always, always welcome, but you know that if you give one of those to a mom, it’s going to be used for diapers, Clorox clean-ups and Snapple. Also nice ideas would be a day to herself–a gift card for a movie, plus a gift card for a restaurant, etc.

Becky's ideas

Becky: I like this Aqua Harper Crossbody Bag from Patina, a local store that also has online shopping, and I think this little Change is Good change purse from Fossil is really cute. And I like that the color is called Flamingo Pink. For my own mom, I have no idea what to get! She does like to get flowers, but I feel like that’s boring. I’ve given her gift cards to book stores before. My mom also likes statement jewelry, so I’ve given her big bangle bracelets before too, like this from Nordstrom.

Edible Arrangements

RA: My mom is hard to shop for because she always tells my sister and me to “not spend any money,” and then when we get nice things for each other, she’s like, “Ohh, you girls always have such nice things!” ARGH, MOTHER. Plus, my parents keep talking about how they will eventually sell the house where my sister and I grew up and move, but it’s been, like, 8 years of talk and nothing has happened. I have strayed away from gifts of stuff for them, in case this plan ever gets off the ground, and now I lean more heavily on gifts that can be consumable or experienced. SO, this year for Mother’s Day, my sister and I are going in on an Edible Arrangement. It’s a little hokey, sure, but I find them to be surprisingly impressive in person, and Mom can feel okay about us splitting the cost.

Andrea's ideas

Andrea: I got my mom one of these insulated wine glasses. She loves a glass of wine in the evenings when she sits on the patio and reads. And I’ll probably also give her an Amazon gift card for buying books for her Kindle. Lately though, doing stuff seems like a better plan than buying stuff. So, my sister and I have talked about taking her for a pedicure. We took her to brunch (just the girls) for her birthday and that was a big hit. And a few years ago, we did a crawfish boil for mother’s day because she loves crawfish.

Connected in Hope

Jes: I bought my mom a scarf from Connected in Hope. They’re handmade in Ethiopia by women in the Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association. I bought one for me, too, and love it. (Don’t worry, I usually buy ‘something I found at Marshalls’ for Mother’s Day. This ‘save the world’ gift kind of fell into my lap this year and I grabbed the opportunity!) Plus, you can get free shipping through May 7 with code MOTHERTOMOTHER!

Fun Birthday Presents for My Sister

12 Apr

My sister and I are really tight, and we love sending each other fun presents in the mail. Her  birthday was on Wednesday (woo!), so I sent her these goodies:

Anthropologie farmers market basket

Anthropologie small farmers market basket: I got a cute coral one on super sale months ago and have been hoarding it ever since for just this occasion.

Old Navy graphic tee

Old Navy graphic tee: I wanted to stuff something soft inside the basket, so I hunted around at several stores looking for a fun scarf, but I came up empty. Finally, after striking out at Old Navy, I saw the display of graphic tees on sale for $5. Score! I got my sister the lobster tee, because we are both New England-raised lobster fiends. And, obviously, we always pronounce it as, “LOBSTAH!” Unfortunately, it looks like this style is sold out online, but there were piles of them at my store a couple of weeks ago.

Letterpress cards

Letterpress birthday card and cupcake thank you notes: My sister loves sending mail and is a snob about letterpress, so I’m always on the lookout for cards for her. I found this birthday card by Red Oak Press (a local company, I just realized) and these cupcake notes by Snow & Graham at a gift shop downtown.

Chipotle gift card

Chipotle gift card: Last but certainly not least! My sister is a sucker for “Chippy,” as she calls it, and this is enough to cover 3 burrito cravings.

Black Friday: In the store or on your couch?

27 Nov

Do you go shopping on Black Friday? I do not. I went one year only for a friend, she needed something specific for her daughter and had to work. I was able to wander around a bit after I picked up what she needed and it didn’t really seem worth it to me. There was nothing that was that great of a deal to get out of bed early for.

I did buy one thing on this Black Friday but I did it from the comfort of my couch. These pants from Express. They were 50% off and I needed another pair of pants.

That was the only shopping I did for me but I wasn’t done yet.

Since Amazon was having free shipping, I did some Christmas shopping for the boys. Just a reminder, I have two boys. A four-year old and a twenty month old. I need to stay away from anything that can be used as a weapon.

That’s more difficult than you think.

So far I’ve got this:

Binoculars for Luke.

A little wagon for Gavin:

When I was searching for the binoculars, these popped up and I knew right away they would be a hit. I couldn’t resist.

Legos Walkie Talkies

And the last thing I picked up…..get ready…..


My boys are obsessed with flashlights.

I think both of their stockings will be stuffed with batteries!

I still have a few more to get for each of them and I think I have to get off the couch and actually go in the store.

Do you like shopping online or in the store?

What do you think about buying toys online? This is my first year buying toys online and I think it will be nice they are already in a box.

28 shopping days left!

SAO Gift Guides

19 Nov

I thought it might help to have links to all the SAO gift guides in one place. Have fun shopping!

Stocking Stuffers

Gifts for Babies

Gifts for Mothers-In-Law

Gifts for Coworkers

Gifts for Fathers or Fathers-In-Law

Gifts for Toddlers

Gifts for Yourself

Gifts for Husbands

Sparkly Gifts

Gifts for the Best Friend

Gifts Under (Or Near) $30

Gifts for Teachers

SAO Gift Guide: Gifts for Teachers

18 Nov

Swistle has some really great posts about giving teacher gifts, including this post at her Milk and Cookies column at Work It Mom.

I asked some teachers I know on Twitter for other suggestions and received a bunch of good ideas.

Erin at State I Am In suggested candy, note cards, Starbucks gift cards, or Target gift cards. She also advised that the best present is a personal note or ornament from the student.

Megan at Mama Bub agreed with Erin’s suggestions and also seconded Erin’s advice to give a note or ornament from your kid.

NPW at Nancy Pearl Wannabe said she likes gift cards from Amazon, iTunes, or Starbucks.

Audrey at Sangria Lover said that her husband and she like restaurant gift cards (even in small amounts).

RA‘s husband said that he can’t eat all the baked goods he receives before they go stale, though he does appreciate them. He thirded the recommendation for a note from the student.

Our own Maura recommended pencils with literature quotes on them for an English teacher or bobblehead US Presidents for a history teacher.

The Etsy shop of Morgan Prather has really pretty necklaces for $23. Last year I gave each of my kids’ daycare teachers a different necklace from her shop.

If you live in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, or Wyoming, I recommend checking if there is a Lillian’s Shoppe near you. The one nearest to me always has gorgeous, high-quality scarves for $15 or so. If you know the teacher’s style, this could be a good gift.

If you give the teacher a note from your kid, I think some pens and post-it notes might be a nice addition. I looked at Miss Zoot‘s blog to see what kind of pens she most recently recommended because I know she is addicted to office supplies, and it looks like her most recent favorite was the Bic Triumph.

Do you know where I’ve found cute notecards recently at a decent price? Hallmark. They do not have a great website, so you’ll just have to trust me on this. Go in, and check it out.

Erin surprised me by emphatically requesting no mugs. I love giving mugs! I love getting mugs too! But you know, now that she says that, I can imagine you get a lot of mugs when you’re a teacher. A LOT. So. There you go. No mugs.

I think this year I’m going to get each teacher at my kids’ daycare a travel cup (the plastic kind with a straw) from Target or TJ Maxx and put a note and Target gift card inside. Hopefully, that won’t break the No Mug Rule.

What I should really give each daycare teacher is a nice bottle of vodka. I mean, my kids are great, but a whole classroom of little kids? All day? VODKA. (I do not actually recommend giving teachers alcohol.)

What excellent teacher gifts am I forgetting?

SAO Says: The Best Gifts

16 Nov

What’s the best gift you’ve given or received?

N: My mom had a 1970s-era Ernie (Sesame Street) cookie jar that sat on our kitchen counter ever since I can remember.  Many cookies were baked, stored, and stolen from Ernie over the years, and he endured a lot of wear and tear.  Sadly, a few years ago Ernie sustained his final injury and my mom emailed my sisters and me, and she was just heartbroken that Ernie was no more.  On a whim, I googled “Ernie cookie jars” and, lo and behold, found a few on eBay.  I successfully won one that was exactly as I remembered hers, and we surprised her with it on Christmas.  I have rarely seen my mom so surprised and touched as she was by the return of Ernie – there were many tears.  I will never forget that moment!  Sometimes vintage finds can recreate the best memories, and sites like Etsy and eBay make this so easy these days!

Andrea: One of my favorite gifts I’ve ever received was a wine of the month subscription. It was so fun to get wine on my doorstep every month and was a great way to try new wines.

Danielle: This wasn’t a Christmas gift, but it is by far the best gift I have given. My husband is a drummer, so for our wedding I gave him a Noble & Cooley snare drum and had a line from our wedding song engraved on the rim. Finding a gift that is centered around someone’s passion always works. Unique art supplies for an artist friend, vintage posters for a movie nut – things like that. Ebay is a great resource for unique gifts.

RA: I think the best gift I ever gave was a framed Calvin and Hobbes comic strip for my husband. We both love it, and we have all of the books, including the massive hardback versions. The creator of C&H, Bill Watterson, famously denied any licensing of the characters, which is why there aren’t greeting cards, stuffed toys, or the like (legally) available. So when I found official prints available from the publisher, I got very excited. I ordered the last comic strip, my husband’s favorite, and framed it on my own. When he unwrapped the present, he got all quiet and then asked, “Where did you get this?” It was great. And, for what it’s worth, the best thing he ever gave me was a Slanket, oh, yes. That thing is awesome.

Hillary: The Christmas I was 21 and my sister was 19, we each found a diamond ring tucked way down into the toe of our stockings. “A girl should get her first diamond from her parents,” Mom said. They weren’t big — maybe 1/4 carat — but they were a great and special surprise. I don’t wear that ring as much as I do my wedding rings, but it means just as much. In the picture, the one on my middle finger is from my parents. The other is from my little sister. It’s also one of my favorites.

Becky: The best gifts I ever received were tickets to go see Dolly Parton in concert. My husband and I had so much fun.

Stacey: The best gift I have ever given was to my brother. We grew up in a really small town. I was 3 years shy of graduating when we had to move, my brother had already graduated and went to college. Neither of us wanted to leave this safety net of a small town, but we did. Three years ago I made a trip back there to visit a friend and I don’t know why but I took a picture of our street sign. The street of the house our parents built and where we spent the better half of childhood. They had just redone the street signs and since our street crossed with Main St. it even had the name on the town on the sign. The picture was fantastic so I blew it up to an 11×14 and framed it. On Christmas morning when he opened it he was in shock…. “Who took this?” he asked me. “I did.” I could tell it meant even more to him then.

And I have one more: My grandmother had a very old Gisele Mackenzie Christmas record that my mom and her siblings listened to every Christmas growing up. My mom snatched it up after my grandmother passed away when I was 4 so it also became the music I listened to every year as well. In 2007, I asked my mom to give me the record. I could not find this record anywhere on CD so I took it to a record store and asked them to help me. The guy told me later that he would not normally transfer a record to CD that was this old but he could tell it meant something to our family so he did it. Aw! Christmas cheer, everyone! I wanted to hug him. I got the CD in hand and I immediately made copies for my aunts and uncles and put them in the mail right after Thanksgiving so they could have them for the holidays.

To me, these are the gifts I love to give. Sometimes it’s not always possible but it sure is nice when it is.

SAO Gift Guide: Gifts Under (Or Near) $30!

15 Nov

This was a fun section of the Style All Over gift guide to get because (honestly) most of my gifts are falling right into this category.  Although I buy holiday presents for all of my nieces and nephews, the adults in my family have a Secret Santa with a limit somewhere around $30.  Here are some of the items that I am not only considering, but would LOVE for myself.

1 and 2. Art Prints- I love the idea of giving art and these options make it easy and affordable.

Sharon Montrose Animal Print Shop- 8.5″ by 11″, $25

20×200, Assorted Artists 8″ by 10″, $24

3. Buddha Bowl– Awesome idea for anyone who likes holding a bowl to warm their hands as they eat.  $24 (at the linked site, but I’d Google it as it seems the item gets stocked for cheaper sometimes at other outlets)

4. Dream Bank- Fill with an inspiring photo and start saving for your next dream. $25, Uncommon Goods


5. Double Wine Tote: Fun and functional on its own (I, of course, prefer the Napa/Sonoma versions), OR you could gift with a bottle if you’re feeling extra spendy.  $22, Uncommon Goods


6. Stickygram– Turns your favorite Instagram photos into nine awesome refrigerator magnets.  Fun for grandparents, friends far away or anyone who appreciates your visual documentation with added filters. $15/9 magnets, Stickygram


7. Lambie Slippers- I have a version of these from a few seasons ago and they get a compliment anytime someone sees them.  Soft, cuddly and cute. $15, Bath and Body Works



8. ID Wallet and Gift Card- Gift cards always seem like a cop-out gift, but years ago a friend had the BEST gift idea for his wife: fancy (expensive) wallet filled with gift-cards for her favorites places.  I love the idea and think you can tone it down with a sweet ID Card Holder like this one and a gift card to a coffee shop. $10 at Forever21, Gift Card value of your choice


9. Platinum Petals Coupe- There is no wrong time to gift glassware for sparkling (or non-sparkling) beverages! I favor the coupe over the flute, but both options  are available in this pattern. $14/each, Anthropologie


10. Cozy Scarf-  I recently brought this to a gathering of ladies and it seems like it went over real well!  Any scarf item on the site with the “Cozy” word in the title is made of the same fabric and is that same size, so look around if you want to switch up the stripes for a plaid or colorblock pattern. $30, Gap

SAO Gift Guide: Best Friends

14 Nov

I love buying gifts for my best friends. Throughout the year I’m continuously scoping out good gifts for birthday and holidays. I even keep lists so I don’t forget all my good ideas. I could pretty much tell you just go to Uncommon Goods or Sephora but then what kind of gift guide would this be.

West Elm Favorite Throw

A cozy throw is a gift that will be used all year long. On sale now, $23 at

Lollia Wish Bubble Bath

A beautiful, fancy bottle of bubble bath is definitely a splurge item my best friend wouldn’t typically spend on herself.  $49 at

Lollia Calm Shea Butter Hand Creme

For a splurge at a lower price point, a fancy tube of hand creme fits the bill. $25 at

Wines that Rock

For the wine lover, get them a subscription to a wine club or a couple different bottles for them to try. (Let’s face it, all my friends love wine!) Gift sets start at $45 at

Riedel Wine Glasses

And to go with the gift of wine, how about some nice stemless wine glasses? $19.99 for 2 at

Sephora Gift Sets

For a friend who loves beauty products, you can’t go wrong with almost any of the Sephora gift sets. I particularly love the Give me Some Lip set ($25).

Or help your best friend find her new signature scent for the new year with the Fragrance Sampler for Her ($50). She can try all the samples and then redeem the voucher for a full size of her favorite.

Lilly Pulitzer Agenda

For your most organized friend, get her a beautiful Lilly Pulitzer Agenda. $16-$23 at

I haven’t started my Christmas shopping just yet, so do you have any other suggestions for best friend gifts?

SAO Gift Guide: Sparkly Gifts

14 Nov

My family jokes that I’m like a bird: easily distracted by shiny objects. It’s true. I do like a good sparkly gift.

Obviously, jewelry fits this bill. My sister is a lot like me, and we tend to buy fun sparkles for each other each Christmas. I always scan the jewelry department at Kohl’s and Target, but I’ve also had a lot of luck finding fun items for her — or for me, what?, I get distracted — on Etsy or at second-hand shops.

I like more classic jewelry like this: Image

That ring (and photo) are from Delezhen on etsy. I haven’t bought from them, but they have good feedback and lots of pretty things at reasonable prices. (This one is listed at $46.)

My sister likes funkier stuff, the bigger the better.


This one (and photo) is from Anthropologie. She’s been nice enough for a $38 present this year, I think.

Of course, sparkles don’t have to come in tiny little jewelry boxes. Here are other shiny objects to give this year.

To yourself (or someone like you): A sequined dress for New Year’s Eve. (Ruche, $73Image)

To your husband: A classic watch (Fossil, $115)

For your kid: Light-up shoes. (I can’t believe I’m suggesting this, considering I am a MEAN MOM who will not allow her sons to have light-up shoes. Whatever. Santa does what Santa wants.)
For a friend: Glitter nail polish (Here’s a link to Essie at Ulta, but I’d just check out CVS or Target.)
What’ll be lighting up your holiday season?