photos made easy

With the holidays only a few weeks away, this is a great opportunity to take advantage of the lingering Cyber Monday offers that last through the end of the day. I think that one of the most thoughtful and memorable gifts is a custom made photo album to document memories from across the year. I love the idea of starting a tradition and making this an annual gift to a loved one, family or friends. With photos mainly being digital these days (which I love), you truly have to make the effort to print your photos. Instead of printing them the traditional way, I’d recommend creating a keepsake that’s already complete once it arrives at your door plus you can add copy to create a story. I love, love, love tinyprints and they offer great deals on custom photo albums. They have a plethora of options for colors, paper type, cover material, etc. to make it fit with your style and needs. I also love the idea of creating a calendar with pictures of your new baby, your pet, etc. and giving them to friends and family. They make perfect stocking stuffers and are incredibly affordable.


more bubbles please

No, I’m not talking about Veuve. I am taking about the amazing SodaStream. It's life changing and was one of my most sought after items on our wedding registry. I absolutely hated lugging seltzer bottles home from the store and the amount of space that they took up in our apartment. If you're looking for a functional housewarming gift, look no further. It’s easy to use, takes up barely any space, plus it’s environmentally friendly. There are a number of different options and a variety of colors. I'd recommend the Genesis or Fizz models. If you want to create a perfectly paired gift, add the Crate and Barrel Ona Pitcher - now you have a simple way to present your homemade seltzer (add a lime or lemon for visual perfection). This pitcher also looks great on display. 

If you act quickly, Crate and Barrel is offering 15% for Cyber Monday and if not, free shipping through December 21 for orders over $99. Bed Bath & Beyond is also offering free shipping for a limited time with purchases over $99. 
genesis model $100
large ona pitcher $26.95


page turner

You can never have too many books. There is something so simple, yet so perfect about a thoughtful coffee table book. They not only serve as d├ęcor, but as conversation starters that represent an experience, a hobby, a love or passion, your personality or even your favorite restaurant. They are perfect for so many different occasions. For example, recently as a thank you gift for my in-laws, we gave them with the French Laundry cookbook – an experience in Napa that we had together that will never forget! There are tons of great options for restaurant cookbooks. If you have a favorite restaurant, do a quick search.  There is a high likelihood that they may have a book available. At our friend’s house the other night, we were immediately drawn to the book on their (amazing West Elm) coffee table. It was playful and perfect - Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, which is based on the online sensation. If you want to relive a memory with a friend from the 80s, you can go the fun route of the Bon Jovi: Blaze of Glory book. You will laugh and probably be thrilled to page through and remember the concerts that you went to (yes, my sister has this and loves it). Another great option is a book that revolves around a hobby or one that represents a passion or fave vacation spot (hiking, architecture, Italy, Brooklyn, etc.). As you can see, there are endless options for the direction that the gift can go. To make the book even more special and personalized, write a note in the front that relates to why you chose the book. I love that so many of my childhood books have adorable notes in them. When possible, go for a hardcover book and check out amazon for great deals! So maybe you can judge these books by their covers...
the meatball shop $28


work it

As it gets colder outside, it starts to get harder to motivate to workout. One way to motivate is to ask for some must-haves from lululemon for the holidays. I’m telling you, I don’t know what it is, but their workout clothes are just amazing and not to mention, incredibly flattering and forgiving. I’m clearly a huge advocate. Once you wear one of their staple pants (I’m a big fan of the Groove or Wunder Under Crop), it’s hard to wear anything else. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I’m tempted to wear them to the office but I know that I can’t. You can sort-of justify the prices because technically, most of the items are 2-in-1 since they are reversible. I can honestly say that I use the reversible thing to rationalize my spending, but I have only once taken advantage of this. If you’re an avid runner, then I’d recommend the Cool Racerback tank for indoor gym days (this tank is great because it doesn’t ride up and even comes in an extra long length) and the Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve shirt for a base layer outside. It has a thumb loop which I love for a little more coverage. I tried it out this weekend and was very pleased. The tank can also be worn during pilates, yoga or spin class. The Swiftly can be taken directly into ski season as a base layer or can be worn while hanging out after a long day on the slopes. There are also a few sweatshirt/jackets that I have my eye on for the cold weather. They all scream warm and cozy after a workout and the best part, they cover your bum. The Live Simply Jacket, In Stride Jacket and Stride Jacket are my top picks.

All of the above items are thoughtful to gift because they directly tie back to your daily life and are beyond useful. They will bring instant gratification to a new level. I bought two things on Friday and have already worn both. My tip would be to only buy one or two things at a time, otherwise, the expense is just too crazy (hence, why you should ask for these items as a gift). While on the site today, I came across these adorable Love Notes – a simple and fun way to tell a friend just how much you care. Send one along!

Apparently, word on the street (and confirming with a lululemon sales associate) is that the Men's boxers are pretty amazing and incredibly popular. I clearly can't speak from experience though.

live simply jacket $98


toys for the techies

It's that time of year again, for the ever-popular Wired magazine's pop-up store to open its doors in the heart of Times Square. If you want to get some ideas for the techies in your life, I highly suggest that you check it out. Here's a brief overview of what to expect and some more details if you're in Manhattan. Additionally, there are three tech related items that I'm currently loving. 

If you're like me, then when you travel, you want to bring as few chargers as possible. The PlugBug charger is life changing - it charges two devices at once. So simple, yet brilliant. Next, Apple sells a Camera Connection Kit that gives you two ways to import photos and videos from a digital camera: using your camera’s USB cable or directly from an SD card. This makes sharing pictures so easy and quick. Best part is that you don't need to wait on anyone to upload the photos. You can just grab them from friends in the moment. Lastly, I came across the DODOcases for tablet devises. They look as sleek as moleskin notebooks while perfectly protecting your device. J.Crew is currently partnering with DODOcase for some specially designed cases.
plugbug charger $34.99

patterned dodocase for kindle $64.95


sniffles be gone

There is nothing worse than being sick. I feel as though everyone around me is sick at this time of year. It's the perfect excuse to show your friends that you care when they are stuck at home feeling terrible - show them some TLC. If you're the cooking type, make some homemade soup to bring over. You can bring it in a reusable container or go that extra step and get a nice, big soup bowl to heat up your creation. Fishs Eddy has some great, fun and cheerful options to hand deliver your soup in. If you don't cook, just pick some up at a local market on your way. You should bring over a large stack of magazines and old movies. The trashier, the better. The last thing that you want to do is think. You should also bring along a cozy blanket to make their spot on the couch more enjoyable and some must-haves such as tissues, water and tea to create a healing oasis. 
manhattan blue plate special bowl $10.95


thanking the hostess with the mostest

If you're like me, then you're headed to family and friends for Thanksgiving. You'll show up with an empty stomach, but you'll want to ensure that you're not empty handed. What's appropriate to bring to the host? If you haven't already done so, reach out to the host to ensure that there is nothing that you can pick up or bring for the big day. Suggest things that they may not have thought of. Today when I was looking through the InStyle Gift Guide (which I highly recommend), I came across a very cool brass bottle opener. Since there are many bottles opened on Thanksgiving day, this is a perfect and thoughtful gift. A fun wine opener would also be a great gift. Similarly, unique serving pieces can be a nice complement to the meal. Try something like these metal and wood serving pieces from Nambe. An easy and thoughtful, gift is a beautiful Fall bouquet that can be placed around the house (leave the centerpiece to the host since it's their table). When you arrive, the last thing that you want to do is to create more work for the hostess so either bring it in a vase or take it upon yourself to arrange the flowers upon arrival. If you're going to a house that is always missing the same thing every year (such as a digital thermometer, bread basket, etc), then you can purchase that item and bring it along - the host will be delighted that you remembered!  

Another option is to bring a wonderful selection of teas for the end of the meal. Tea Forte and Mighty Leaf offer beautifully presented options that will go with your favorite pie! And if none of the above work, then pick up a bottle of wine or champagne to show the host how very thankful you are. 
brass japanese bottle opener $65
tea forte tea chest $45


mad for the men

I've gotten a lot of requests for gifts for the men in our lives and I wanted to share a few ideas. There is a fantastic company in Chicago called Trunk Club that creates a custom clothing trunk for your man. A personal shopper is dedicated to you (either via phone or in person if you're Chicago based) and handpicks clothing options that fit your personality and lifestyle. Once your package arrives, you can dig through it and keep only what you like - there is no commitment. It's a fun way to give a personalized gift for any occasion. 

If he's a Scotch or Bourbon drinker, you can create your own custom gift. Pair Bookers with Scotch rocks, a brilliant way to chill your drink of choice without watering it down, and two or four timeless Old-Fashioned glasses from Simon Pearce or Williams Sonoma (you can even get a monogrammed option). The presentation on this one is pure perfection. This can be adapted for any type of beverage. Cheers! 
trunk club - prices vary 
scotch rocks $25 & booker's bourbon $55


goop’s gift guide

Over the next few weeks, I will be sifting through the clutter to find the best holiday gift guides out there so that you don’t waste your time or money. In case you didn’t see it today, GOOP, a site carefully curated by Gwnyneth Paltrow, sent out their 2011 gift guide and I wanted to share it. The guide spans a wide range of prices and offers some very cute, creative and unique gifts. In case you want more, there is a link to view the 2010 recommendations for even more great ideas. Happy gift idea generating!
maya brenner designs bi-coastal necklace - starting at $165


hello baby

Recently, a lot of my friends and siblings have given birth to adorable babies. Not having kids myself, I am always torn on what makes a great newborn gift. Obviously clothes are always fun, but I’m always looking for other thoughtful and easy gifts that cover multiple price points. The Silvery Gallery has a teething ring that’s beyond practical and can be monogrammed with the newborn’s initials (this has my three child sister’s approval). It’s not meant to be on display – it’s actually a great solve to teething (so is Sophie the Giraffe). Another idea is a tote bag or duffel from LL Bean with the baby’s name embroidered. New parents can never have too many bags to lug all of their belongings around. The customizable burp clothes from Moonbeam Baby are also a great find. You can create a set of three with different patterns and fonts. They come with a nice ribbon around them and shipping is reasonable. Parents will love cleaning up after their children with these adorable clothes. Plus, you will save them from having to wash their only burp clothes so often!
moonbeam baby burp cloth $8.95

treat youself

As much as I love giving gifts to others, I am also a big believer in remembering to treat yourself sometimes. I can’t think of a better opportunity, than a J. Crew 25% AND free shipping sale (code: STAYWARM), to do this. I wanted to share my recommendations for giving yourself a little something, something. For the ladies, this is the perfect time to buy practical staples that you know you’ll wear time and time again, and of course, induldge in one item. The best part is that you won’t have to feel as guilty since you got such a steal! I’d recommend a go-to statement necklace, a blazer to add instant sophistication and style, a pair of the uber-versatile Minnie pant (I bought two of these since I live in them – perfect with boots, flats, for work, for dressing up…opportunities are endless! They tend to stretch so I’d get a size smaller than usual), and an always needed button down. This is also your chance to get that cashmere sweater that you’ve been lusting and a cute pair of pumps or boots that are usually way too expensive to justify, but now you barely can. I went with the MacAlister wedge boots for my indudgence. I’ve been eyeing them for a while. What’s the worst case? If something doesn’t fit or you’re having buyer’s remorse, then easily return with the label provided.

For the men, I’d recommend going with staples such as tees and everyday half-zip sweaters.

For the little ones, get the holiday outfits so that it’s off your list and all sizes are still available! You’ll be very thankful when the holidays are here. Also, a little secret.  Even bridal is 25% off. So if you're like me, have your bridesmaids get those dresses

Treat yourself quickly because the sale ends tonight!
j. crew minnie pant in bi-stretch wool $72 (originally $98)


signed, sealed, delivered

A friend introduced me to the wonderful world of tinyprints greeting cards. They have a wide selection of cards for any occasion that can be personalized with names, copy and photos! The best part is that they handle the shipping directly from their facility. So say goodbye to rummaging through your bag to find a stamp, and upon finding it wondering if the postage is still the correct amount. They make showing you care a cinch. I’d recommend these for newly engaged couples, new homes, birthdays, anniversaries, baby births and my favorite, just because. Tons of families use tinyprints for Holiday cards and they have a sister site, Wedding Paper Divas, which is dedicated to all things wedding and offers fantastic prices.

I also wanted to share another easy and meaningful gift that can be customized and ordered with ease. Recently, for a friend’s engagement, I wanted to show my excitement while not breaking the bank. I found an adorable Boatman Gellar notepad online that I could put her soon-to-be new name on. She received it and loved that I had put so much thought into giving her a personalized and beyond useful gift. Not only did she have to order more, but it’s become her go-to gift for her newly engaged friends. When I got engaged, she sent me stationary from Paper Source with our initials on it - I was thrilled! So simple, yet so practical and perfect. 
boatman gellar notepad - $26 for 2 

paper source notecards - starting at $50


away we go

I headed to warmer weather for the weekend, so I thought that it would be helpful to share some of my top picks for your beach or weekend bag. With the holidays approaching, these all make excellent stocking stuffers as well! LL Bean has great monogrammed totes that are very reasonable and hold tons of stuff. Alternatively, Bric's has a wide selection of bags that come in a plethora of colors and can be found for discounted prices through deal sites such as Gilt or at a department store such as Bloomingdale's which typically has good luggage sales. Now the good stuff, what to put in the bag...A kate spade iPad cover, iPhone or Kindle case is perfect to keep the sand out of your devices. They come in very cute, colorful designs. J.Crew has a wide selection of scarves for any destination or climate (I’m loving my blue Ikat one for Fall and it makes a perfect plane companion). bkr bottles, created by two friends in search of a reusable water bottle that did not compromise aesthetically, are ideal for any trip. I love their philosophy and story. Who doesn't want to be green while simultaneously looking great?

bkr bottles $28

kate spade iPhone case $40


monthly splurge no more

If you’re like me, then there are certain things that you love to indulge in on a regular basis, but often times wish that they were cheaper. From overpriced exercise classes to manicures to wine. Why not help your friends out when the next gift opportunity arises? If your friend is a wine lover, there are tons of monthly, quarterly and bi-annual clubs that you can purchase memberships for. To make it personal, pick a club from a region or winery that you know your giftee loves. If your friend is into the of-the-moment workout craze, you can purchase packages. Physique 57 and Soul Cycle have great options. I promise, your friends won’t be offended. They will be beyond grateful and THRILLED not to purchase any classes for months! Drybar, a salon dedicated to just blowouts (a fave splurge), has cutely packaged single and multi-pack options. Lastly, Birchbox, a company committed to sending beauty samples on a monthly basis has three great gift offers – 3, 6 or 12-month memberships. I’ve been given this and loved getting packages on a monthly basis – always made my day and was a fun splurge that was gifted to me! 

birchbox gift package - from $30 to $110


shake it

Jonathan Adler is a sure bet when it comes to cute and thoughtful gifts. You can find something for everyone. The salt & pepper shakers come in a variety of different options and are a perfect under $50 gifts for birthdays, housewarmings and just because. I was thrilled when I got these as a gift, and I've given them many times - love them! Plus, they come in an adorable box and the employees at the store are expert wrappers. You leave ready to give. I've heard that they are coming out with a number of new options just in time for the holidays. Look for them online and at a store near you! 

Jonathan Adler Bird Salt & Pepper Sakers $48