‘Tis the time in the season where we all hit gift gathering crunch time. Are you checking your lists and just now realizing there is nothing on there to “WOW” them? I mean, I know they really, really wanted that sweater and those boots, but will there be anything under the tree to surprise them and make them squeal “this is the best!”?
Are you thinking, “That’s a great point, but I’m also tallying up my credit card statement and there’s not a lot of ‘flow’ left to my cash.”
Well, delight can come cheap and easy, my friend. That “may” have not come out exactly as we intended, but with this list you can be a hero on par with Santa for not a lot of reindeer chow.
These right here are the entire reason this post was written. A friend told Ellen about them, and she was amazed! Every person Ellen has told about them has been amazed! Virtual reality for UNDER $10? It’s amazing!
So this is the world of Google Cardboard. You download the apps to your phone, pop it into this viewer, and you’re off to play games, explore ancient temples, or immerse yourself in the world of Star Wars. Just with this little thing. Really. These sturdy gems come fully assembled, and the only real complaint at this price point is that the cardboard hurts your nose. Some genius in the Amazon reviews discovered that slitting a Nerf dart along its length and slipping it over the cardboard edge provides the perfect cushion for your $8.99 wonder.
If you would like a bit more of a comfort upgrade, you can check out this plastic model. Still under $25!
Got a baseball player, tennis player, golf pro, or musician on your list? This fun little gadget can get them in tip-top shape in the most conversation-igniting way possible. You basically have to provide resistance against its spinning. It’s more addicting than it sounds. Trust us.
Never again get caught in the dark searching blindly through your handbag desperately trying to find your keys, cosmetics or other items that settle to the bottom of a cluttered purse. This little light is motion activated and turns off after a couple of seconds. Genius can be found in the simplest of ideas.
Speaking of losing things, we feel like we keep buying USB cables because we keep leaving them like breadcrumbs everywhere we go. Even if we have a plug or car charger available to us, we don’t have a cable. This beauty clips onto your purse or backpack to always be handy in a form meets function kind of situation. Works for Android and iPhone (there’s even a lightning cable).
Okay, maybe the last three gifts weren’t so much “wows” as much as they were “that’s pretty cool.” But seriously, just get the virtual reality glasses, be a hero, and call it a day.
If there is a better gift to give than books, we don’t want to hear it. Here are thirty books we loved reading this year. They could easily be on a Best of 2016 list, but we think they belong here as gift guide for you. Every last one is just perfect for someone on your Christmas list. This is The Ultimate Book Gift List from us to you with love. So just fire up that Amazon Prime and start crossing people off your list today.
Coming of age stories, while charming and poignant, don’t always make great novels. This novel with its plucky, awkward 14-year-old narrator June avoids the pitfalls of the genre. June feels like she was born in the wrong era and yearns to be a falconer. When her story begins, it’s 1987 New York and her favorite uncle has just died of AIDS. June’s unlikely friendship with her uncle’s boyfriend forms the backbone of the novel. Erin gave up an afternoon to read it in big gulp. This is one you’ll miss when it’s over.
While these fictional stories are not necessarily true, their “truth” is irrefutable. A masterful storyteller, Gyasi weaves these stories of slavery and racism without ever becoming preachy or judgmental. While she structures the novel to bridge two continents and cultures to tell the stories of two African half-sisters and their descendants, she can easily not just tell the poignant details of their lives, but reveal larger truths about mankind’s cruelty to each other.
One of Erin’s friends recommended this one with the caveat, “When it gets hard, that’s when it starts to get good.” This book slammed into Erin’s life. By articulating the class struggle and placing it into historical context, it forces the reader to confront prejudices and an examination of some of the darker truths of the American Dream. A quick read that generates introspection, it will sit with you long after you turn the last page.
Erin’s brother-in-law recommended this one and if you want to be challenged about what you think you know about human history and how you know it, this is the book for you. It’s a delight to read and the ideas inherent in it force you to confront your expectations of mankind and what we have done as a species. As a Social Studies teacher, Erin found it fascinating. As a reader, she found it to be a quick, satisfying read that gave her space to contemplate some larger questions about the world.
Haunting and beautiful with depths that beg to be plumbed, this book brings it and then some. Well-rounded characters and gorgeous imagery set the stage for one killer knock-out of a book. This book is sexy with a capital S. Flawed, lovable Hazel and magnetic Claire will change everything you thought you knew about love, sexual attraction, and chemistry.
A quick moving plot, well-defined characters, and settings that transport the reader to another time and place set the stage for a book that you will not want to put down. A debut novel by an actual architect, this story of the transformation of Bernard, a man caught in historical and moral crossroads, delivers drama and authenticity, a double whammy any reader can appreciate. Riddled with uncertainties, Bernard decides that he can work with both sides, but as the novel unfolds, he discovers where he truly stands. The journey to that self-discovery is the heart of this novel.
As parents of young people just starting to make their way in the world, this is a hopeful book. As women of a certain age, it’s a bit devastating too. On the one hand, Kalanithi and his story is a beautiful tale of a life well-lived. On the other hand, it was one cut tragically short by cancer. A coming of age story as well as the story of his battle with cancer, his tale is populated with poignant and illustrative scenes. But by far the best thing about this book is Kalanithi’s lovely writing. His beautiful mind and spirit come alive in the pages. Our world is better for having had this man and now his book in it.
A riveting account of the crew that captured the gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Told through the eyes of Joe Rantz, a remarkable man who overcame much adversity to be one of the “boys in the boat,” this story is not so much about rowing as a sport but the power of sport to change lives. Erin rowed crew in college and Brown gets the details of the sport just right even though he never rowed. Vivid characters and a moving story propel this story to the ranks of “Must Read.”
Our friend Nina described this book as a book lover’s book. She is one of those friends who is usually right, so we just nod and listen to her. We are oh so happy we did. The quirky A.J. Fikry is an unlikely one to root for, but as the story unfolds, you can hardly help yourself. Loss, romance, and even a bit of mystery are peppered throughout and layered with humor. Each chapter doesn’t just advance the narrative but serves as an homage to one of Fikry’s favorite books. If you have ever lost or found yourself between the pages of a book, this is a must read.
We just love Ann Patchett, so it’s always hard when a favorite author has a new book. Will it be the worthy of the same love and devoted following as her other books? The answer here is “Oh, hell yeah!” A novel about two families whose fates are sealed at a Christening party with a large bottle of gin and ripe oranges. Moving back and forth in time and between members of the Cousins and Keating families, Patchett nails family life. The Greek tragedy and comedy of the whole enterprise is alive and well in her telling here. You will nod your head in recognition, laugh out loud, and even mist up. It’s a helluva read and that’s why it has to be one of this year’s best!
This is a hard read, but you just have to do it. “Each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” This right here is the silent whisper in the shadow of each chapter. It’s what compels you to keep reading all the hard things contained in these pages and keep confronting the systemic inequities that cripple our ability as a nation to truly be free. We read this one with a group of friends and were able to laugh, cry, and wrestle with the uncomfortable truths within together. Whether you go it alone or find a buddy or ten to share it with, this book is one that needs to be read in the way that air needs to make it to lungs and water needs to slate thirst. This is not a just a book, so much as force of nature in your life. You will be different from reading it, but that’s the beauty and gift of it.
On the surface this book is nothing special, a familiar story about a SAHM who suddenly has to work full time. But “Danger, Will Robinson”, it’s the quiet ones that will get you. With its light, breezy touch, infinitely likable characters, and easily recognizable tensions, this book will sink its stealthy hooks into you and then spit you out an afternoon later. Erin adored Alice, her kids, and her very believable relationship with her husband. This may not be ground-breaking fiction, but it is a wholly satisfying, utterly delicious piece of literary pie.
We both love every opportunity to worship at the altar of the inimitable Strout and this book illustrates perfectly why. This simple and unassuming story is a powerhouse of story-telling. Lucy is recovering in a hospital bed when her estranged mom comes to visit. However, Lucy is no ordinary protagonist and Strout is no ordinary writer, so the results are literary fireworks. Small but mighty, this slim novel packs a lot of extraordinary into a tight, narrative thread. The perfectly rendered imperfect relationship between Lucy and her mother is a reader’s dream: nuanced, fully realized, and ringing with truth. This one is a keeper.
Every member of Erin’s family devoured this book this summer. The premise: a plane crashes, and there are only 2 survivors, one of them a young child. The promise: a story that unfolds with a few surprises full of characters you care about and a mystery you are interested in solving. You will stay up late to read the backstories of the people on the plane and find out what happened to the ill-fated flight. Fascinating and entirely unputdownable, this is a book that was on everybody’s must read lists this summer. If you haven’t read it, move it to the top of yours.
Any parent who has been through it will tell you: college admissions is an emotional pressure cooker. Nothing quite captures the high highs and the low lows quite like this utterly delectable piece of fiction. The Hawthornes are a family so familiar you feel from the first page like you might be reading about your next door neighbors. As their oldest gets put through the wringer applying to Harvard, dad’s alma mater, so do the rest of them. As the pressure is on, things start to unravel and secrets are revealed. Bottom line: an immensely enjoyable read for you that will make you grateful for your own process in comparison.
When it comes to advice about college, we listen to our friends Lisa and Mary Dell who write over at Grown and Flown, a great online resource for parenting through this next phase of life. They told us to buy this book, and we are ever so grateful they did. Chock full of great research, stellar examples, and good advice, this book is a gem, but what we felt was most helpful was the overall tone. Damour’s message time and time again is that we, as parents, can do this very hard thing of parenting our girls through this tough phase of development. With the cool confident tone of a priest or a hostage negotiator, Damour emphasizes that there is more than one way to “get this right.” Our harried teen mom hearts wish we could clone her and carry her around in our pockets to talk us down off our ledges when the time comes. In the end, this is one book that will deliver all of you to the other side and get you ready for the big, beautiful things that lie ahead.
This one might make you want to lock up ALL of your college aged kiddos, but you HAVE to read it. You know how we love to talk to kids about everything from sex to drugs to alcohol. Well, Krakauer lays out why we need to talk to our kids about alcohol and campus rape too. YIKES! But why, you ask? WHY?! We get that this is a tough read in many places, but Krakauer’s firm steady journalistic hand makes this one of the best, most important (but still immensely readable) things you can read, especially if you have kids filling out college applications or already cozied up in dorm rooms. It is a book that launched a thousand conversations for us. We are sharing it with you in the hopes that it will do the same in your family. A MUST read!
This, from Julie Lythcott-Haims’ Amazon author page, is one of the reasons we love her and her book:
I am deeply interested in humans – all of us – living lives of meaning and purpose, which requires figuring out what we’re good at and what we love, and being the best version of that self we can be. So I’m interested in what gets in the way of that.
Um, yeah, all of what she said. This is not a book about helicopter parenting, per se, so much as a path through the fears that can interfere with our parenting and foil our relationships with our kids. Lythcott-Haims tells us how we as a society evolved to this style of parenting and how to break the bad habits that threaten the job we are trying to do. Such insight in such a readable form! A book we keep coming back to again and again!
After a lovely party at the lake house, the Edevane family’s 11 month old son Theo goes missing. Morton’s page turner takes this pivotal moment in a family’s history and creates something special and utterly unputdownable. Told from two vantage points–2003 London and 1930s Cornwall–this book will have you ignoring kids just to figure out what is happening and where this story will go. As always, Morton’s gift for managing complicated story lines while simultaneously creating well-developed characters will make you grateful for all that extra time you have to read.
A good friend recommended this book calling it a “sexy beast of a read”. If you are anything like me, that alone might make you want to read this book, but if it doesn’t, try this: this is a novel that won’t be compartmentalized. A virtual smorgasbord of all good things literary, this book has action, suspense, courtroom drama, some literary allusions, and even a tiny sprinkling of horror toward the end. There are no small bites here; you will devour this book. Without a dull moment in sight, this book grips you from the first sentence and keeps you entertained and hungry for more until it delivers one sad reader at the very end. You will miss these characters and this story when it’s gone. Lucky for all of us, this is book one in a five book series. Read on, book warriors!
Don’t read the dust jacket: this book is neither Gone Girl nor The Girl on the Train, both books we really, really liked even with their creepy, psychological suspense. It IS a great read though. In fact, it reminded us more of Leanne Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret with the marital secrets and the mystery at the heart of it. Sometimes, multiple points of view can be distracting, but in this case, the structure of the novel contributes to some of the magic. Be forewarned: you could easily lose an afternoon falling down this delightful rabbit hole, but the pay-off is worth it!
Our book club read this one this year, and we universally loved and were inspired by it. So much so that those of us who had borrowed it from the library purchased copies to share with our kids. We were mesmerized by Malala’s chilling account of her hometown being taken over and then living under extremist terrorists, moved by her descriptions of the Swat Valley where she grew up, and emboldened by her courage. The book held up for us as a read, not just a recounting. 2016 is The Year for Global Girls. Lose yourself in Malala’ s incredible story and find yourself fired up about getting girls all over the world access to educational opportunities.
We share a huge author crush on Rainbow Rowell. We both LOVED Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, so we had huge expectations for this book, especially because favorite characters from Fangirl show up again in this story. Well, the inimitable Rowell never fails to surprise, entertain, and stun us with her craft and cleverness. She can also give you that rare stomach flip. Even in a book about magic, she is the real deal. Before you start to call this book Harry Potter for big kids, you have to know that this book is its own brand of special. How do we know? Over 500 pages disappear in a flash before your very eyes. This is Rowell at her best. The results? Magical.
Erin gobbled this one right up. She even took it backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Nothing says “must read” like a willingness to cart those extra ounces up and down a mountain. In any case, the novel opens as stay-at-home mom Allison’s life is about to go off the rails. She goes to her childhood best friend’s book signing one night and has a little too much to drink. Mere hours later, she is involved in a fatal accident in which a child dies. The air you take into your lungs in the big gasp in the beginning takes this whole well-paced novel to be released. This may not be high literature, but it is a captivating read that makes you think. Like we said, you are gonna want to take big bites of this one.
Erin laughed, cried, and ignored her kids for three days to finish this piece of book crack in the big, sloppy gulps it demands. You know from the beginning that there has been a terrible tragedy at the local school’s Trivia Night, because Moriarty leaves little crumbs at the end of each chapter. But that’s not the story here. This is NOT another legal thriller. A big, sprawling character study of modern moms, it may be. An ironic, funny take on modern parenting, it definitely is! It’s also a rollicking good time. You’ll laugh and cringe at just how right Moriarty gets all the characters hanging out in the school parking lot. A great read for fall while still reminiscent of that last joyful moment of summer indulgence.
A book lover’s dream, this first novel has the trifecta for a satisfying read: great well-developed characters, a dynamic and well-paced plot, and some nice curve balls to keep you guessing. Our protagonist Grace looks like a simple girl from Tennessee, but she can’t hide her complex and slippery character for long. You’ll root for her and want to wring her neck in equal measure. There’s a question that hangs over the novel from the beginning that’s begging to be answered and when Scherm finally gets around to it, you are grateful for the care she took in the build-up as well as the payoff itself. This is a debut that leaves you wanting more.
Moms of daughters, beware: this read will make you want to lock your girls up and throw away the key. But despite the dark cloud that hangs over this novel as a teen girl goes missing, there is so much to enjoy as well. Ng is a writer’s writer and she doesn’t so much document this family’s unraveling as their personal hell unfolds as invite you to pull at the fraying threads with her. At once, a novel about family, the mother/daughter dynamic, and cultural divides, this book is also achingly real and familiar. The truth hurts so bad in this one, but the reader is so grateful for every perfect note Ng hits. If the ship is going down, we might as well learn something from the trip. Ng makes sure she plumbs the depths so well that this is one dark corner now revealed.
Erin always considers it a good thing when she wants to throttle and hug the characters in equal measure. Straub’s story offers up characters that deliver on this front. College bandmates now mellowing in middle age, Elizabeth and Andrew who are married live down the street from old bandmate Zoe and her wife Jane. The band’s fourth member Lydia achieved some success on her own. When a film about Lydia’s life requires them all to touch the past, their present unravels a little at the seams. Straub’s deft hand controls the realistic tensions, steers the careful and realistic examination of midlife, and delivers characters that resonate. A satisfying, well-paced read by a gifted writer.
If you can judge a family by its flaws, the Plumbs are a perfect hot mess of a crew. They also couldn’t be more charming. The novel kicks off with the family inheritance in jeopardy after one of the siblings gets himself into hot water. As the four siblings wrestle with the mess left behind, it would be tempting to dismiss them as shallow or lacking substance. However, Sweeney gives each character multiple dimensions. She exposes their humanity and moves the story along. In doing so, their tale of personal woes, family ties, and thwarted ambitions is reminiscent of challenges we all face. A thoroughly entertaining read.
Marriage isn’t a straight narrative so much as a thousand shimmering moments—beautiful, terrible, and strange—and Offill lays them all out for us in this gripping, lovely book about what it means to take this particular trip. With her unique gift for plucking the extraordinary from the everyday, Offill doesn’t just offer up moments from a marriage but gives us glimpses of the diamonds hidden in the rough patches as well. Offill’s structuring of the story can be the reader’s hard work. Through her careful curation of snippets from the marriage at the heart of this novel, Offill leaves the reader asking on every page—how do these pieces fit together? what does this mean here? Yet it’s these tenuous but important questions that serve the story she is trying to tell and give the reader a satisfying and wonderful read.
We hope these page turners will make it easier to thrill any readers on your list.
Of course, you could just print this list out and hope they end up under your own tree.
You know what the second busiest time of the year for gift-giving is? Stop guessing, we’re all too busy for that. It’s May and June! Certain years—especially those packed to bursting with graduations—are a slippery slope of events and presents from Cinco de Mayo to Father’s Day. It can be forty-four straight days of “What should I get her/him/them??”
Now gift cards and cash are nice, but sometimes, often times, you want to show how much you really care. You want to honor history and good times together by telling a story, by wrapping them in memories.
We were lucky enough to have the ideal warm and cuddly gift fall into our laps. A puppy! Just kidding. Potty-training anything is NOT a gift. No, we’re talking about a Project Repat t-shirt quilt! It’s as perfect for your favorite graduate as your dear old dad.
Everyone gets the feels about old t-shirts or at least everyone who has a beating heart. Just pull out an old college t-shirt. It’s almost like time traveling because it’s not just a memento from your life’s journey, it’s a reminder of the past lives you have led. Seriously, even when they’re past threadbare (or appropriate) to wear, you can’t bear to part with them. So what do you do to show your appreciation for these relics? Um, if you’re like Erin you banish them to plastic storage bins in the basement to live out their days hoping to be something more.
I have been throwing old jerseys, team shirts, school club shirts, and every other shirt my kids outgrew but still loved with the red hot fire of childhood into storage bins for years. I was saving them for something, I swear. But I lack the crafting gene so I wasn’t quite sure what that something was . . . until Project Repat. A miracle that could clear out my basement, display my memories, show my high school graduate I love him, and give me an end product my void-of-Pinterest-soul could never pull off in a million years? Yes, please!
When my son, who is a freshman in college, went two hundred miles away to school, he barely took any pictures and he had no posters on his wall until one of his friends bought him one for Christmas. He’s not one to be overly sentimental about the things and people he left behind, but when he was home for spring break, his quilt arrived.
His reaction was better than I dreamed . . .
I mean, really, much, much better than I would have thought . . .
I loved it, because some of those shirts were from when he was just a little guy.
He LOVED it, especially because we were able to include super meaningful shirts like one of his travel soccer jerseys. . .
and his staff shirt from his first job. (Notice you can add polo type shirts!)
He had no trouble telling me how much he liked it.
In fact, he liked it so much, he even packed it up and took it with him. High praise indeed from someone with only one poster on his wall and an itty bitty suitcase.
Meanwhile in Ellen’s household . . .
When we signed on to work with Project Repat, my first thoughts were, “I have a daughter graduating from high school this year! A t-shirt quilt would be the perfect gift!”
What my second thought should have been was “I need to go through t-shirts during the one million hours she is gone from the house during the week.” What I actually did was start sorting through them during the only two hours she was home all weekend. By the way, people ask me to do A LOT of things, but throwing surprise parties is not one of them.
Daughter: “Whatcha doing going through my old (looks into box), really old clothes?”
Ellen: “Looking through your t-shirts to make a memory quilt out of them.” (If only I was in a profession that gave me the skill set to create stories to divert her attention.)
Ellen: “A t-shirt quilt. You go on Project Repat, pick out the size, pick out the color of Polartec backing you want, prep your t-shirts, mail them in, then get back a beautiful t-shirt quilt to literally wrap yourself up in your memories!”
Daughter: “Sounds cool, but I don’t get the name.”
Ellen: “‘Project Repat’ comes from all the textile jobs they have repatriated back to the United States. Another fun fact, the PolarTec ﬂeece is made out of recycled plastic bottles. In fact, each yard recycles twenty-three plastic bottles that would otherwise end up in landﬁlls. And, AND they use zero water in their production process. Even with all these responsible business practices, Project Repat offers the best price on the planet for this kind of product.”
Daughter: “We have got to make one of those for Dad!”
Ellen: “But I was making it for you! You’re graduating! I already watched this video (ten times) and got inspired (sobbed)!”
Daughter: “But it would be so awesome for Father’s Day! Dad has all of those old fraternity and concert shirts. He would love it. He is soooo hard to buy for. You can make one for me once I’m gone so it can be a surprise.”
Me: (Sniffle, sobby, sob) Whatever, look away!
I have to admit, the girl was right. This is going to be the most awesome Father’s Day gift. Look how delighted they are with it. These blankets are just as much a gift to the giver as the recipient.
And talk about cuddle value. It feels good knowing so many water bottles were kept out of landfills, but the PolarTec just plain feels good, no, GREAT!
We are beside ourselves with how wonderful our blankets turned out. So are you ready to upcycle your old memories into a memorable new gift? Because we have a gift for you!
One person who signs up will also be randomly chosen to receive a $75 voucher, which can be redeemed with Project Repat to purchase a 16-panel lap blanket at no charge!!
(Project Repat will contact you directly if you are chosen as the winner.)
Click here to get started! Once there, click on “Buy Now” to begin the selection process. Want to see how they do it first? Watch this behind-the-scenes video about the upcycling. Oh and while we still have your attention, Mother’s Day is also a gift giving occasion in May. Just putting it out there. (Wink.)
You can follow Project Repat on Facebook and check out some of their great t-shirt quilts on Instagram.
While we were compensated for this post, we truly cannot put a price on the joy these blankets brought. We absolutely love them.
‘Tis the season for gift guides, and we are pros at it. We have lists for the teens in your life: boys and girls. We have a guide for men and a specific one for kitchen gadgets.
But there is one gift we want to recommend that is so fabulous, it could be on any of the lists we’ve published: Jord Watches!
These beauties are made from all natural, untreated wood except for the the clasp and back which are stainless steel. How unique is that? And just look at how they’re packaged! The gorgeous gift box is silky smooth wood with a lid that slides back to reveal your timepiece nestled on its very own pillow. It really broadcasts from the moment it’s unwrapped that this is something special.
And it truly is. This is the gift for the people on your list who:
You love the most and want to “wow.”
Are the hardest to buy for because they have everything.
Are very style conscious.
Like only natural products to touch their skin.
Jord was kind enough to share two watches with us for our honest opinion, and honestly, we love them! We wear them all of the time, but it was so much easier to have our lovely daughters model them for photos. Now the only problem is they want to wear them all of the time. We should have known better, but there are birthdays and graduation coming up in the new year. Hmmmmm.
Erin received this stylish Zebrawood one from the Cora series:
I keep having to steal this watch back from my daughter. It is stunning when you put it up against her gorgeous red hair, so I understand why she would want it. But as a teacher by day, I love looking down at my wrist and seeing this watch’s pretty face to keep me on track. It totally brightens my every day, so she can’t have it to herself just yet.
I love being able to see the inner workings of my Dover watch. After years of using my cellphone as my timepiece, it’s nice to get back to something that feels so organic. I get compliments every time I wear it, including one from my hipster graphic designer brother-in-law. He noticed it right away at Thanksgiving. It’s not often I feel that cool.
So seriously, if you love someone, get them the perfect gift: Jord Watches. Shipping is free, even internationally, and Jord will even size it for you before it is sent out. With its one year guarantee, you can feel secure giving the gift of style this holiday season.
So you decided one fine December that it would be super swell to make photo books as holiday gifts for the grandparents, siblings, and aunts. And it was . . . but it was so much work. So. Much. Work.
But they loved them, and they fawned over you, and now it’s your thing. Your stressful, time-sucking thing. But you know in your heart it doesn’t have to be that hard. If you just knocked them out earlier in the year it wouldn’t be so bad. Right? RIGHT?! New Year’s resolution time: jump on Shutterfly in January and BOOM, Christmas shopping will be done before the calendar even flips a page.
But things come up, time gets away from you, and then suddenly . . .
It’s dawn on December 5th when you realize the 50% discount–THE BEST OFFER OF THE YEAR–ends at midnight.
Procrastination be damned and with Shutterfly as your witness, you will get the photo books done today!
But first Facebook.
NO! FOCUS! Must start culling through 30 bajillion photos. Because digital.
Declare Part B of your new New Year’s resolution is to delete bad photos as you go along.
(No, you won’t.)
Figure out that NOT ONE of the 50 pictures you shot on burst for the family portrait has everyone looking good (or at least looking at the camera) at the same time.
Spend an hour on PicMonkey frankensteining a photo that is album cover worthy.
Hell, while you’re at it, touch up your roots and whiten your teeth in that one fab picture of yourself in front of the tree.
Crap, you need to get the kids to school.
Okay, focus. Just pick some pictures so a book can actually happen.
Start upload of 331 photos.
Celebrate with your 4th cup of coffee before 10:00 AM because now you can begin the fun stuff of designing your book.
Come back with your 5th mug of coffee and realize not all of the photos are on the site because your internet connection glitched in the middle of your upload.
Go through the tiny thumbnails and figure out what’s missing.
Schedule an appointment with the eye doctor to see if you need glasses.
Start another upload.
Swear you’ll upload your pictures immediately after Christmas this year.
(No you won’t.)
While upload is completing (you won’t dare walk away this time because your broken spirit is too heavy to drag along), pick out the perfect theme.
Treat yourself to a 6th cup of coffee because you picked out the perfect theme in three minutes.
Oh nardbolts, it is one that costs extra.
Go back and settle on a different theme. Convince yourself that your basic family will like the basic theme.
Check on the upload.
Accidentally pause upload because your hands are shaking.
Make yourself a sandwich to soak up the caffeine.
Start the book.
Forty minutes later panic–because while they are PERFECTLY placed–you only have three pictures in your album and it’s now time to pick the kids up from school.
Grind on the homework/dinner/practice/bedtime hamster wheel.
Grab a latte to get you through.
Four hours later get back on Shutterfly.
Add a shot of Bailey’s to your coffee because you realize you only have 45% of one page created.
Pass out on the keyboard because you are EXHAUSTED.
Wake up at 4:00 AM. Succumb to gnashing of teeth and rending of garments BECAUSE YOU MISSED THE DEADLINE!
Start Google search to see how much you could get for a kidney to pay for full price photo books.
Check email and see–can it be true??–the 50% deal has been extended by ONE DAY.
Fall to your knees weeping the praises of Shutterfly and promising to use this second chance to end your procrastinating ways once and for all.
(No you won’t.)
Get the kids to school and crank up that Keurig because momma’s got a photo book to complete.
Bust through 30 pages like a woman possessed by ignoring your family and squashing all semblances of holiday cheer. Hit submit at 11:52 PM.
Revel in those eight minutes to spare.
Be stricken with complete amnesia when those glorious orange boxes show up on your doorstep.
Looking for something perfect to put under the Christmas tree? Nothing warms our hearts and de-grinchifies us faster than a stack of great books. We crowd-sourced our in-real-life Sisterhood to put together this stellar booklist. Some books we have loved, others we are wishing to see under our own trees this Christmas. In any case, they all come stamped with a Sisterhood Seal of Approval, so you can feel confident that your favorite reader will move you to the top of their list after receiving any of these.
A book club pick, we devoured this book individually and as a group. In a nutshell, a young woman loses her job and then goes to work for a young quadriplegic, but that’s just on the book jacket. There is so much meat to this tale. The relationship that develops between Louisa and Will doesn’t just touch the reader, it makes you reevaluate the line between ordinary and extraordinary and the paths we take to get where we need to go. It also launched a great book club discussion which is, of course, the very best endorsement.
A cautionary tale for our hyper-connected world, this riveting tale of Joe and his obsession with the lovely, unsuspecting Beck will heighten your pulse and take your breath away. A creeper tale of the highest order, this story watches Joe watching Beck and then making his move from stalker to boyfriend. Read this one with all the lights on and feel to check your heart rate often during this compulsively readable and thrilling book.
A book club pick from another book club, we were thrilled by Hatmaker’s honest, funny take on parenting, marriage, and modern womanhood. A Christian blogger cum HGTV star, Hatmaker is the best girlfriend you wish you had. This book means you can carry her wisdom and wit with you all the way through the carpool line and beyond.
Wickedly funny, this book starts with relatively unlikeable characters, adds some loose connections to the story “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, throws in a road trip, and somehow ends up with a satisfying read. The three young people at the heart of this one–Kezia, Victor, and Nathaniel–were best friends in college who crash back in to each other’s lives at a wedding. Their intricate dance throughout the novel holds all the moving pieces here together, but Crosley’s wry funny observations and humor are the real stars. Erin quoted this book out loud to her husband many times. Be prepared to laugh and cry.
Erin is a Freakonomics podcast enthusiast and found this recommendation in an episode. Funny as well as fascinating, this book takes on the idea that is transforming behavioral economics: small changes can produce great results. Finding a book to stimulate your mind and your funny bone at the same time is like finding a bathing suit in January, but this is one magical unicorn of a book. Not just appropriate for non-fiction lovers, this book will thrill anyone curious about why people do what they do. It might make you reevaluate how funny college professors really can be. A fun, fascinating read.
Full disclosure: we really liked Gone Girl so this book which has hints of that same dark heart beating beneath the shiny surface of the marriage between these two new beautiful people thrills us. But this is not Gone Girl Lite. Groff is a beautiful writer and the power of her prose combined with the structure she imposes here give this book new heights to reach and new depths to plumb. With the two points of view explored fully and exposed honestly, this book could also have been titled TheRise and Fall of a 20 Year Marriage, but even that falls short of the literary magic happening here. Love her or hate her, Groff of Arcadia fame is a reader’s writer and this story moves, breathes, and completely blows away what you ever thought about long term relationships.
Another wife gone missing book with an important difference: Pitlor’s gifted hand. She draws everyday married life in all it unexceptional uniqueness. When Hannah disappears after an argument with her husband Lovell, the story of their marriage unfolds as the mystery begs to be resolved. Pitlor deftly explores the special country that each love story spawns with exquisite and realistic detail. You have seen those blind turns, you have navigated these back roads. A page turner with heart and humor.
Another look at yet another marriage, but this time the focus includes the teens caught in the crossfire. The immensely gifted Pierpont draws the philandering Jack, his wife Deb, and their two children with such clarity that their pain is palpable. An inventive structure to the novel adds layers to this already complex and accurate portrayal of a modern family in distress.
This book is a novelization of the up close and brutal of the adoption process. The complex, often times unlikeable characters of Jesse and Ramone populate this novel with their insecurities and shortcomings, but ultimately this book wins because it has a raw honesty. Though it is at times bitter, this vulnerability and truth is also welcome. Dark humor and real emotion pull this novel along.
This book answers the question: what happens after the torpedo hits the bow? A novel set in New York City, this story follows the Darling family, a family firmly in the 1%, after a financial scandal threatens to sink the whole ship. Rich with details of what it’s really like inside the hearts, minds, homes, and work spaces of the wealthy elite, this book will definitely grab your imagination. The well paced plot and superbly drawn characters will keep it.
So don’t forget: nothing says “I love you” like a stack of books under the tree on Christmas morn.
Teens are a notoriously tough crowd, so we get the sheer panic at trying to buy a gift for them. A stack of gift cards or a card stuffed with cash would certainly be appreciated, but there is no need to shy away from at least trying to surprise them. In the past, we have created lists just for teen girls and teen guys, but this year there is something for everyone in our teen gift guide. Miracles can happen. Perhaps you will find just the right gift to make your holiday sparkle a little brighter this year. Take a look!
Just For Fun
Don’t forget that teens are just kids who shave and drive. Get them back in touch with their inner child with some of these fun gifts!
Teens love water and electronics, but these two things don’t mix well. An especially good idea for your favorite lifeguard or swimmer, this shuffle will deliver their tunes and help keep their other electronics safe.
This is the perfect gift for any audiovisually inclined teen. The microphone works easily with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras alike. This mean that whether he’s recording his video game reviews or she’s showing off her dance moves, your future YouTube sensation will have supersonic, crystal clear audio.
Screw these into any can or track lighting, and you have awesome Bluetooth speakers plus a light show. By downloading an app, you control it all from your smartphone. Teens will appreciate the two-in-one approach to the fun.
Just use the app to connect this printer to any smartphone. Simply choose a photo and it will create a small, instant Instax print of the photo. Lots of people can connect to it at once which makes it great for parties and a winner for any tech-y, photo-loving teen.
Games Teens Play
Here’s a tip: a plain old deck of Bicycle Standard Index Playing Cards is a great stocking stuffer. Our teens love good old-fashioned cards, but if you want to get a little fancier, here are some winners we like.
Your teens will love it as much as ours do. They love teaming up as disease-fighting specialists in this one. If the disease spreads, everybody loses. If they contain the outbreak, they all win. Family fun and peace in one box. Fa-la-la-la-la.
Looking for some active fun? This game combines elements of virtually all outdoor games and lawn sports. Throwing, catching, strategy, teamwork, offense, and defense are part of every toss in game play.
Watney’s humor and humanity breathe life into this well-paced and thoughtfully constructed story about a man’s struggle for survival in an unforgiving environment. His plucky ultimate underdog self will win teen hearts as the real science sprinkled throughout engages their minds.
This story of first love is peopled with high schoolers the way we remember them and know them now. Funny, sweet, vulnerable, flawed, and deeply striving for love, acceptance, and independence, these are characters to cheer for and your teens will. The Barnes and Noble sales rack calls this a teen romance. It’s so much more. A buoyant, wonderful read that makes a perfect gift.
If you have a music-loving teen, this gift is thoughtful and practical. No ads, total control over what songs they hear, and the ability to keep the music playing even without phone service make Spotify a winner.
Got an athlete? This combination step tracker + GPS sport watch tracks steps, pace, distance covered and calories burned. It will even tell you to get up and get moving if you have been hanging around too long.
Made from super-strong, orange nylon webbing, this camera strap attaches to the camera’s tripod socket. Hanging upside down at your side rather than around your neck and available in two versions, one that goes over your shoulder and another that goes across your body like a typical R-strap, this is a special gift for your photo-junkie teen.
Hope these help you have the happiest of holidays!
Everybody knows guys are hard to buy for. But that time is coming around the mountain again when you are going to need to just suck it up and find something sweet for your sweetie. In the spirit of true Sisterhood, here is a great Valentine’s Gift Guide for Guys with ideas that should appeal to your guy too.
Erin’s SIL gave these to Steve for Christmas and, quite frankly, She moved up the ranks a few notches with this thoughtful gift. We love them! Tell your favorite Star Wars fan that your love would be perfect even in a galaxy far, far, away with these.
Got an Amazon Prime membership? Well this is what you need to get the most out of it. For $39.00 you unlock a world of movies, TV shows, and music. Ellen’s family loves this little piece of magic more than chocolate.
You know we love to cook. We have the recipes to prove it. So trust us when we say the kitchen maestros in your life would love anything from this kitchen gadgets gift guide! Cooks love things that make tasks easier and faster; but if the gadgets are super cool too, we swoon. Get ready to break out the smelling salts if you put any of these gifts under the tree.
Behold! The Best Kitchen Gadgets
Jenaluca Stainless Steel Herb Scissors
We love fresh herbs, but chopping them can be such a pain! This gadget for under $20 makes mincing herbs so fun, you’ll be planting them in every square inch of soil you can find just so you can use them. And see that nifty little cover? It cleans the little clinging leaves out of the blades. But the best selling point? It is dishwasher safe!
Nutri Ninja Pro Blender
Want smoothies without the grit and lumps? This is the powerful little machine for you! Now some reviewers complain that it doesn’t pulverize blueberry seeds, but we’re not sure anything does that. But it does deliver the smoothest smoothies we’ve ever made right into a container that will fit in your cup holder. So awesome.
Black and Decker 3-Cup Ergo Chopper
If you are like Ellen, onions make you tear up worse than watching Titanic. Cry no more with this chopper that makes short work of dicing up those odoriferous bulbs of flavor. Works great with carrots, nuts, celery and garlic too. This handy gadget has big advantages: compact, easy to pull out of the cabinet, and EASY to clean in the dishwasher. It’s a great addition to any kitchen.
Chop 2 Pot Plus Folding Chopping Board
Sometimes it’s the little things in life. Cooking has never been easier when you can just use the board to funnel your chopped veggies into your pot or bowl. You’re probably starting to notice a trend, but this is also dishwasher safe.
All-Purpose Silicone Spoon Spatula
If you’re thinking a spatula is not a proper gift, you are wrong! This is a spatula, a spoon, and the absolute best tool to get the last smidgen of mayo out of the jar or that bit of cake batter out of the bowl. It is awesome and it is all one piece. That means no cracks or crevices in whcih liquid or bacteria can collect. And you guessed it, it’s dishwasher safe.
Funny Attitude Apron
Do you have a special someone in your life with a flair for cooking and a well-developed funny bone? This is the gift he or she deserves. It will start all kinds of fun conversations.
Star Wars Darth Vader Apron
All of the awesome of the previous apron with the added spice of a dash of geekery. May the Force (of the pancakes) be with you.
Easy Release Grease Separator
Speaking of geekery, Ellen’s love for this gadget is borderline embarrassing. She doesn’t make gravy often, but when she does, this little gem makes it ten times easier than it ever use to be. It’s worth the cabinet space, but it’s compact design makes it easy to squeeze in there. It strains and separates all in one, but here is the secret value: it is super fun to release the gravy essence with the spring loaded handle. Not as fun as a trip to Disney World, but you gotta grab joy wherever you can.
Swiss Rex Vegetable Peeler
Erin has peeled her share of potatoes in her lifetime, and this peeler is the best. Not the fanciest or most expensive, not ergonomic or spring-loaded, it’s just eternally sharp, easy to use, and sure to be your most favorite kitchen bargain ever. Slide this into a stocking this season.
OXO Good Grips Dough Blender with Blades
Unless you are one of the blessed few who has “the touch” like Erin’s grandmother, you are going to need one of these when you attempt a pie crust. This one has stainless steel blades and a comfy grip. It does its work super-quick too. A great addition to any baker’s pile of presents!
Tina Frey Ice Bucket – White
Gifts for the bar are welcome gifts to any home cook. This ice bucket has a retro chic that’s irresistible. A thing of beauty that will bring oohs and ahs on the big morning.
May these gift suggestions help you be the superstar this holiday season!