Subscription Box Round-Up: December 2014

I’m changing things up around here with the new year approaching.  I have posted open box style videos of my monthly subscriptions on my TBBB YouTube channel for a few years and in the past year added a coordinating blog post as well.  I’ve decided to simplify things by cutting out the videos and sharing one post a month featuring my current subscriptions.

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I like the idea of sharing all of my subscriptions in the same post, because you can really see how different each one is.  My current subscriptions include Julep Maven, Eco Emi Beauty, KnitCrate, and PopSugar Must Have.  Read on to see what came in each box this month:

Julep Maven

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It’s no secret that I love nail polish.  I’ve been a Julep Maven subscriber for a couple of years now and I always look forward to my monthly box from them.  The Julep formula is one of my all time favorites.  The Maven Box costs $24.99 a month, or $19.99 a month with a three-month prepaid subscription.  They ship to the United States and Canada only.  I love that you can select between several different offerings each month or even skip a month if you’re not feeling it.

I received the Bombshell version of the Countdown Collection for December which includes two festive polishes and an Orbital Eyeshadow.  The two polishes in my box are Soleil, a “lustrous rose gold chrome,” and Paula, a “Persian blue with gold microshimmer.”  Both polishes are festive wintry shades with a twist!  The box also came with an Orbital Eyeshadow, which I was able to select the color of ahead.  I picked Airglow, a pretty champagne color.  It’s the perfect year-round party shade for me!

Each Maven box comes with a quote.  This month’s quote is: “No one looks stupid when they’re having fun.” – Amy Poehler

If you’d like to learn more about the Julep Maven program, I recommend checking out their website.  Join now and use code HIFRIEND to receive a four-piece gift free!

Eco Emi Beauty

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The Eco Emi Beauty Box includes four to five deluxe or full sized natural and cruelty-free products ranging from bath and body to beauty and cosmetics.  It costs $22 per month for US customers, which includes shipping.  The box is available internationally at $34 a month.   It’s not clear to me yet if the beauty box revolves around a theme, although the accompanying card’s title, “Holiday Season,” is fitting for this month.

I received four full size products in my December box, including three beauty products and one bath item.  The Whole Seaweed Detox Bath consists of sustainably harvested bladderwrack seaweed, which contains “valuable nutrients, amino acids, and oils that nourish the skin.”  The two cosmetic products included are a natural volumizing mascara by Sante Naturkosmetik and a mineral powder eyeshadow by Cailyn Cosmetics in the color Sable, a pretty blue, with a neat built-in sponge applicator.  The last product is a Hair Butter by Shea Radiance, which is “specifically formulated to soften and smooth thick hair.”  It’s the one product in the box that is something I will probably pass on to somebody else since my hair is so fine and not suited well for this formula.

KnitCrate

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I absolutely love KnitCrate, which is a monthly (or bi-monthly if that seems like a bit too much yarn coming at you) subscription service geared towards knitters.  There are eight different subscription options, which you can see here if you’re interested.  The prices range from $23 to $75 a month depending on which kit you choose and where in the world you live (they do ship internationally).  I subscribe to the Beginner’s KnitCrate, which includes a pattern suitable to that level, enough yarn to complete that project, a couple of bonus items (ranging from soothing to sweet to fun), and promo codes for knitting related products.  It’s basically the most awesome care package a knitter could ever dream of!

The yarn included this month is two hanks of Buffalo Skies DK by Buffalo Wool Co, which is a 50% bison down and 50% superwash merino wool blend.  I had no idea people made yarn from bison!  If you’re curious, the company website shares more about this here.  Apparently, bison down is hypo-allergenic, water-wicking, and easy to care for.  I love the gorgeous burgundy shade.  There are two patterns, including the “I Mean Business” Pocket Scarf and the Bells & Beads Stole, both by Le Tissier.  The fun extra is a super soft Luxury Fur Pom Pom, perfect to pop onto a knit hat.  KnitCrate usually includes a food item, as well, and I’m very happy about the Peppermint Hot Chocolate on a Stick by Ticket Chocolate in this month’s selection.  There’s nothing like sipping on a tasty cup of hot chocolate while knitting during the winter!  As always, KnitCrate subscribers receive promo codes each month.  This month includes discounts on patterns from Leah Oakley and BohoKnitterChic Spins.  They have also provided a coupon code to use at TicketChocolate.com.

Get any 12-month Gift Subscription by December 31, 2014 and use promo code KCG2014 during checkout to receive a KnitCrate Welcome Kit!

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I also subscribe to the 5 Mini Add-Ons package available through KnitCrate.  Each month I  receive five 30-yard mini hanks in hand painted/indie dyed yarns.  It’s a nice way to try out a variety of  hand-dyed yarns from different providers.  I use the mini hanks I receive through this subscription for my Beekeeper’s Quilt.  This month’s selections includes five variegated shades from the Sunrise Fiber Co.  This hand-dyed classic sock yarn is a high-twist 100% superwash merino wool that is incredibly soft to the touch and quite vibrant in color. I love all of the variety I get with this subscription for my ongoing quilt project!

If you’re interested in purchasing the Beekeeper’s Quilt Kit or other items from KnitCrate you can receive 10% off your first KnitCrate purchase (not including monthly or bi monthly subscriptions) by clicking here!

PopSugar Must Have

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This subscription is so much fun!  PopSugar Must Have is a monthly subscription service where you receive a selection of full size and premium beauty, fashion, home, and fitness items for $39.95 per month (this includes shipping and is available in the US only).  The December box theme is inspired by “Cheers, Party Ready, Indulgence, Holiday Treats, Sparkle, & Glamour.”  As usual, there is a nice variety of items in this box ranging from beauty to leisure.

I absolutely love the selection of goodies they included this month!  Everything is festively stylish, even the Vanilla Bean Cupcake Mix from Williams-Sonoma.  What a perfect thing to whip up in a pinch or pop into a hostess gift basket for a holiday party.  The Parcel Tags by Knot & Bow will also come in handy over the next week as I put the final touches on gifts for family and friends.  You should have heard my squeal of delight when I pulled out the simply stunning Sydney Necklace by Sparklepop.  It sparkles like you wouldn’t believe and definitely see myself wearing it to dress up a simple cashmere sweater.  The Platinum Bowl by Canvas Dauville is the perfect place to store jewelry, coins, or even use at parties for small snacks.  I’m excited to try the Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer by Smashbox in Bordeaux.  Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever tried a lip product by Smashbox.  The deep berry color is very holiday in my books!  My favorite item in the box by far is the gorgeous Speckled Metallic Scarf by SPUN by Subtle Luxury.  It is incredibly soft and I can’t get over how beautiful the gold metallic spots are on light grey.  PopSugar delivered another smashing box, as per usual!

Click here to learn more about the PopSugar Must Have Box. Use code REFER5 to save $5 off your first box!

I like to order the special limited edition boxes that PopSugar offers from time to time.  I share a look at the “for him” and “for her” limited edition holiday boxes in this video:

I picked up an additional For Him and For Her box as a special gift for two of you!  The PopSugar Must Have Holiday Box Giveaway will run until Wednesday, December 24, 2014 at 1 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  One person will win the the PopSugar Must Have Special Edition Holiday Box For Him and another will win thePopSugar Must Have Special Edition Holiday Box For Her.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).   When entering you’ll be able to choose which box you would like to receive in the event that you win.  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties. If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

 I hope you enjoyed my new style of sharing my monthly subscriptions!  Feel free to share your thoughts on my round-up post in the comments.  I’d love to know if you receive any monthly subscriptions, too!  Happy Holidays!

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* All products mentioned are part of the Julep Maven, Eco Emi Beauty, KnitCrate, and PopSugar Must Have monthly subscription programs, for which I pay for my own memberships.  Post contains affiliate & referral links.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

The Bag Buzz: Mulberry Mini Cara Delevingne Bag

OJ|TBBB_12-12-2014_01I’ve certainly been on a Mulberry kick lately and I can’t get enough of their gorgeous leather goods.  The wallet I bought last December (sadly no longer available) in New York is so nice that I haven’t switched it out once for another wallet in my collection, something I used to do regularly.  I also own a pocket size Mulberry organizer that makes me smile every time I touch it.  I understand that this all might sound kind of strange if you’re not a leather goods lover like me.  The Mulberry quality is worth the price in my opinion and I thoroughly enjoy every piece that I own.

Meet the newest addition to my Mulberry collection, my Mini Cara Delevingne Bag.  Isn’t she a beauty?  I actually pinned this bag a few months back, and my clever and super sweet husband promptly purchased it for me as an anniversary gift in early September.  He stalks my Pinterest page apparently!  Since then I have stopped pinning bags, because he often buys me what I pin (not that I’m complaining, mind you, I’m just weird about things like that).  I am happy to have this little lady in my collection and she’s definitely unique in design.

OJ_TBBB_12-12-2014_05The design of this bag is what initially drew me in, quickly followed by the gorgeous oxblood color.  It’s cute and boxy, measuring 8.75″ high x by 9.25″ wide x 4.75″ deep with a 2.5″ handle drop.  The bag reminds me of a vintage school satchel.  It can be worn three ways: as a backpack, a shoulder bag, or hand held.  My favorite ways to carry it are backpack style and hand held, so I keep the woven straps with leather details connected in backpack style, although you can configure them in several ways thanks to lobster clips and rings placed around the bag’s exterior.  I was worried at first that the fit wouldn’t be right to hold it square on the back, but it actually wears nicely and is easy to even carry off one shoulder like the cool kids used to do back in school (I was never one of those kids, if you couldn’t have guessed ;) ).

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The bag is constructed from a gorgeous natural vegetable tanned leather that is buttery soft with a nice distinct grain.  The interior of the bag is unlined, featuring a gorgeous suede.  It has a zip pocket on the inside, but not much else in terms of built in organization. There are several details inspired by the bag’s muse, model Cara Delevingne, including a small lion rivet and a heart shaped patch on the interior pocket, as well as a “Made In England” stamp on the bottom exterior (not shown) based on Cara’s tattoos.  I especially like the soft gold hardware, including the postman’s lock closure on the outer flap, and the pretty buckle that keeps the handles together.  The hanging fob with a hidden padlock is a signature part of the popular Bayswater design, which they’ve mimicked with the flap closure here as well.  The Mini Cara Delevingne bag is handmade in the Mulberry factory located in Somerset England.

OJ_TBBB_12-12-2014_03The bag is almost square, which is a nice style from the outside but can present some issues when packing the interior.  Even though it looks like it’s a similar size to the medium bags I’ve been fond of carrying lately, I actually had a bit of trouble fitting everything in until I figured out the right packing method.  Most of my purse must-haves fit into the bottom half of the bag, including my Walking Pharmacy (which I’ve actually pared down a bit since my last post about it), vlogging camera and case, extra cards, mints, and keys. I keep my most accessed items on top, such as my wallet and phone.  The bag is absolutely full with all of these items in it, but not overly stuffed and I do find it easy to access everything.

I will say that the design makes it a bit more time consuming than with another kind of bag to actually get into it.  I like to keep the little buckled strap secure around the handles when I am carrying the bag so they don’t flap around.  To get inside the bag, I must first unbuckle this and then undo the postman’s lock and open the flap.  I don’t mind so much, but I can see how this might be a deal breaker for someone else.

As usual, I am going to share the contents of my purse with you despite the fact that they are the same month after month.  I don’t switch these items up very often.  I may change my bags out fairly frequently, but I like to keep the contents more or less the same.

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1. Orla Kiely Graphite Small Cosmetic Cube – My current Walking Pharmacy, this Target exclusive has great organizational elements built right in. Still available in a different print!
2. iPone 5S with Rifle Paper Co Clear Rosa Case – I can’t tell you how many compliments I have received on this gorgeous clear case!  The print looks hand painted.
3. Mulberry Bow ID Purse (no longer available) – My favorite wallet!  Perfectly sized to carry in smaller bags.
4. Two Pocket Card Holder from ATime4Everything on Etsy – A great way to cut down on bulky card cases!  I stow gift cards, store cards, and business cards in mine.
5. A small tin filled with treats for my pup, Winnie, and poopy bags.
6. Car keys with my favorite Henri Bendel Bow Stripe Key Fob and Swiss Army Knife (this has come in so handy over the years!).
7. My house keys on a keychain sent from a viewer in Malaysia.  Thanks, again, I love it!
8. My vlogging camera, a Sony RX1003 that I keep in an 1154 Lill Studio wristlet case (did this shop close? I can’t find their website anymore).
9. Vinyl Zip Pouch with Coupons – Exact one shown is no longer available but I also like this alternative from The Container Store.
10. Mints! – I’ve been on a mint kick lately.  My two current favorites include the classic tic-tacs and these yummy chocolate mints by Hint Mint (I love the sleek packaging!).

I am on a total backpack kick now, as you can tell if you watched my recent haul video on TBBB.  I’m guessing they’re on trend or at least were recently and that’s why I’ve been seeing them everywhere!  I’m not usually on top of what’s fashionable.  All I know is I love the convenience of a good backpack purse.  I hope you enjoyed this look at my mini Cara Delevingne bag.  I would love to know what bag you’re currently loving and carrying or just lusting after, if you care to share!

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* Post contains affiliate links.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Stocking Stuffers: Holiday Gift Guide 2014

For the last installment of my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide, I am sharing some of my Stocking Stuffers picks with you.  This includes items under $20 that are small enough to fit in a stocking.

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1. Bath & Body Works Medium Candle in ’Tis the Season – Medium-sized candles like this are the perfect fit for most stocking toes and are extremely customizable thanks to the plethora of brands and scents available.  I love ’Tis the Season, a festive bright apple scent from Bath & Body Works, and the confetti dotted glass is a festive touch. Suggested Retail: $12.50 or 2 for $20

2. To The Letter Magnet Set – I think this magnet Scrabble game is an awesome stocking stuffer for the word-game enthusiast in your life.  Suggested Retail: $12.99

3. ToddyGear The Wedge Mobile Device Stand – I’ve waxed on about the awesomeness that is ToddyGear device cleaning cloths for years now and I still think they’re awesome stocking stuffers.  I was recently introduced to their wedge, which acts as a mobile device stand and device cleaner.  It’s the perfect place to prop up your mobile device for easy access and visibility. Suggested Retail: $14.99

4. Crumb Catcher Vacuum – When I first saw this little guy at The Container Store Gift Wrap Wonderland I thought it was just a silly novelty item, but then I got to thinking how useful something like this would be for quick and easy crumb management on counters and tables.  It’s cute and practical!  Suggested Retail: $11.99

5. Citrus Zinger Water Bottle – I received one of these in a PopSugar Must Have Box several months ago and instantly fell in love with it.  The ingenious design makes it super easy to enjoy infused water without a lot of fuss.  Suggested Retail: $15.99

6.  The Republic of Tea Stackable Tea Tin – This sampler comes with three delightful holiday flavors, including Dream by the Fire, a spiced rooibos, Comfort and Joy, a festive black tea, and Peppermint Bark, a green rooibos.  Each kind of tea has its own separate compartment in the clever three-tin stack design. Suggested Retail: $13.50

7.  Theo Holiday Chocolate Bars – I think every stocking needs something sweet in it.  You can’t wrong with chocolate!  Theo has four delicious chocolate bars available for the holiday season, including Peppermint Stick dark chocolate, Nutcracker Brittle dark chocolate, Coconut Mint milk chocolate, and Gingerbread Spice milk chocolate.  Yum!  Suggested Retail: $4 each or Set of Four for $16

8. Bath & Body Works Scentportables & Fragrance Refills – These clip style scent diffusers are great for a small space like a closet or a car.  Pair one with a few fragrance refills in a decorative bag for a thoughtful gift or clip it right onto the stocking!  Suggested Retail: $5.50 (holder) and $3.50 (refills) or Buy 3, Get 1 Free/ Buy 4, Get 2 Free

9. Fold & Go Travel Slippers -  A great concept, but are they actually nice?  I bought a pair for myself and tested them out for a few weeks and am happy to report that they are quite nice!  The neoprene design offers more cushioning and insulation than I was expecting.  Plus, the bottoms are rubberized to prevent slipping.  These are my new go-to travel slippers and I think they would make a nice gift for the traveler in your life.  Suggested Retail: $19.99

10.  Umbra Zoola Bunny Ring Holder – Another PopSugar Must Have acquisition, I love my elephant version of this sweet ring holder.  I keep mine by my sink to ensure my rings have a safe spot whenever I take them off to apply lotion without worrying about them accidentally going down the drain.  Suggested Retail: $7.99

11.  Burt’s Bees Endless Shine Trio – This non-sticky, moisturizing formula is one of my all-time favorites for lip gloss.  The tube design makes it easy to apply on the go.  The three shades included offer a nice range of ready to wear options.  Suggested Retail: $9.99

12. Deborah Lippmann Dance Music Nail Lacquer Duet – A sweet set for the polish fiend, this festive duo comes packaged up in a cute zip pouch that matches the fun glitter polish.  Suggested Retail: $19

13. Tarte Sweet Dreams Deluxe Best Seller’s Collection – I’ve become such a fan of Tarte’s Maracuja oil as my new moisturizer of choice over the past few months and this set caught my eye because of its great value.  It also comes with a deluxe size of the Maracuja C-brighter eye treatment and Cheek Stain in Dreamy.  A perfect little package!  Suggested Retail – $19

Check out the video below if you’re interested in a closer look at these products as well as my thoughts on each one:

I am giving away a stocking filled with all of these items to two of you!  The Stocking Stuffers Giveaway will run until Monday, December 15, 2014 at 6 PM CT. The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  TWO people will win a stocking filled with the items I shared in this post.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties.  If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I hope you enjoyed this last installment of my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide and that it gave you some ideas or inspiration for gifts for your loved ones this holiday season.  Check out my Little Luxuries Gift Guide for my top picks in the $20-$50 range and Extravagant Splurges for gifts ranging from $50 to $300.  Happy Holidays!

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* Description contains affiliate & referral links.  ToddyGear very kindly sent me the wedge I shared in the coordinating video.  The ones in the giveaway were purchased by me as well as all other giveaway prizes.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

November 2014 Favorites

Happy December!  I’m in the process of switching up both my YouTube and blog content and have decided to condense my monthly favorites posts back into one.  I am sharing some of my favorite things from the past month with you in this post, ranging from accessories and beauty items to multi-media picks and food.

Clothes & Accessories

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Ugg Classic Tall Boot in Chestnut – I’ve had these boots for over eight years now and they’re still going strong!  They’re my go-to’s for chilly morning walks with my pup (before the snow and ice hits at least) and quick errands.  I think one of the secrets to their lasting so long for me is because I like to wear thin socks with mine.  They certainly keep my tootsies toasty!

Mulberry Mini Cara Delevingne Bag – This gorgeous explurgent (you’ll get this reference if you watch my coordinating video) beauty was an anniversary gift from my hubby.  I’ve had to stop pinning bags because he always buys me what I pin!  I’m not complaining, though, trust me. ;)  I absolutely adore this backpack style satchel.  I hope to post a Bag Buzz on this bag soon.

Sony RX1003 Camera – I’ve received lots of questions about my new vlogging camera, so I thought I would share.  I actually originally purchased it as a secondary shot camera for my OLJ channel and to take blog photos with, but soon discovered it’s great for vlogging, too.  It packs the punch of a DSLR into a compact design.

Beauty

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Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette – I’ve fallen in love with this palette all over again and this time I’m head over heels!  I dug this out of my collection earlier in the month and it’s basically the only palette I’ve used since.  It has such a nice variety of shades and the shadows are buttery, easy to blend, and well pigmented.

Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush in Plum Wine – I bought this blush on a whim when I was in Walgreens recently, because I remembered how much I like the two I keep out at our family vacation house in Utah.  This plumy shade is perfect for late fall/early winter and adds a nice healthy glow to the cheeks.  I like using my Sigma Small Duo Fiber F55 Brush to apply this cream-style blush.  It makes it super easy to blend into the skin.

Perricone MD No Lipstick Lipstick – I love a good MLBB (My Lips But Better) kind of shade and this one takes the cake!  Not only does it have a super nice, creamy formula that is moisturizing and long lasting on the lips, the lip balm style packaging makes it a breeze to apply on the go, mirror optional.

Fresh Sugar Rosé Shine Lip Treatment – I fell in love with fresh’s lip gloss when they released the original clear/sparkly one last year and was super excited to see that they launched some pigmented shades this fall.  The rosé shade is absolutely gorgeous and right up my alley as a warm toned brown-pink.  The formula is moisturizing without being too heavy or sticky.

Nest Fragrances Dahlia & Vines Rollerball – I went through a weird phase this year where I suddenly disliked 90% of the fragrances I own. Strange, I know.  I stayed away from fragrance for the most part after majorly purging my perfume and body spray collection.  It’s only recently after discovering how much I love this perfume that I started wearing fragrance regularly again.  I decided to go for the rollerball option just in case my scent preferences aren’t done changing.  It’s actually really convenient to be able to keep in my purse as I tend to forget to apply fragrance until I’ve already left the house.  The soft, feminine scent includes notes of Dewy Daffodils, Peony, Rose, and Garden Vines.

Home Goods

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My obsession with candles only intensifies as the weather turns colder and I am still very much enjoy the Bath & Body Works 3-Wick candles I hauled earlier in the season.  My top picks from November include Cranberry Woods, which I’ve enjoyed while soaking in the tub.  There’s something so refreshing about cranberry scented candles this time of year!  I’ve also really enjoyed burning Spiced Pumpkin Cider in my office, which has a bit more of a subtle scent, but very warming and seasonally appropriate.

Multi-Media

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A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin – I finally finished this massive tome and boy, was it ever a good read!  I have so enjoyed the A Song of Ice and Fire series so far and am very much looking forward to starting the fourth book in the series, which I’m saving for when we travel to Utah after the holidays.

Redeemed by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast – I’ve been a big fan of the House of Night series for a few years now.  I’m pretty sure this one is the last in the twelve book series.  It is considered young adult fiction and is certainly an easy read, but I find the story line interesting with well thought out twists and solid character development.  While it is a fantastical story that revolves around the lives of young vampires, the characters are relatable and the read enjoyable.

✻ The Kill Order by James Dashner – I’ve put off reading this prequel to the Maze Runner series for some time, but decided to finally pick it up.  I’m about halfway through and I’m not really feeling it.  I found it a bit difficult to get into the other three books in this young adult dystopian society fictional series before and I think this is probably my least favorite book of them all.  The story is interesting, but I am having a hard time really getting into the writing style.

✻ Kin – Larkin Poe – New music alert!  I learned about this sister duo from a Restoration Hardware catalogue, of all places.  After reading about them, I decided to look up their music and instantly liked their sound.  Their music is catchy without being pop-y with relatable lyrics that tell a true story.  These are some talented ladies!

✻ Pretty Shiny Sparkly – I recently stumbled across Kristina’s YouTube channel after searching for planner videos and was immediately drawn in by her upbeat, down-to-earth personality.  She posts mainly beauty-related videos, but her planner ones are my personal favorites.  I can easily spot a fellow Planner Enthusiast when I see one!  She also runs a lovely beauty blog that is definitely worth a peek.  On top of all of that she’s an anesthesiologist!  Talk about good time management!  Check her out and show her some love if you feel so inclined.

Tasty Treats

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It wouldn’t be a true monthly favorites post without including my current favorite indulgence, and I have been all about hot chocolate lately.  I actually purchased the Williams-Sonoma Hot Chocolate Pot while looking for a replacement for my beloved Bialetti machine that has since been discontinued.  This little enameled steel pot is my new favorite hot chocolate maker!  It heats liquid so quickly and evenly and is the perfect size for 1-3 cups of cocoa.  I love the teak handle and pour spout for ease of use.  I love it so much, in fact, that I included it in my Extravagant Splurges Holiday Gift Guide this year!  Where there’s a hot chocolate pot there must be hot chocolate, of course!  When I still want to indulge without feeling quite so guilty about it, I reach for my new favorite powdered mixes by NibMor.  These organic, Non-GMO, fair trade certified drinking chocolates are absolutely superb!  I love how they are made with coconut palm sugar, which has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar.  My favorite is the mint variety, which isn’t so minty, but a tad bit sweeter than the traditional variety.  Yum!

If you’d like to hear more about my November favorites, check out this video:

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It’s giveaway time! I wanted to share the awesomeness that is the Too Faced La Belle Carousel beauty gift set I shared in my Little Luxuries Holiday Gift Guide.  The November Favorites Giveaway will run until Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  One winner will receive a Too Faced La Belle Carousel holiday gift set.   You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways). I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always. Good luck!

*** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED ***

Congrats to the winner of the November Favorites Giveaway!

The Poll Results for *What do you think of my new combined monthly favorites post?* out of 1023 entries:

I like it! (909) 89%
I miss Miscellaneous Monthlies & the Beauty Buzz (110) 11%
I don’t care for monthly favorites posts (4) 0%

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I would love to hear about some of your November favorites if you care to share!

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* Post contains affiliate links.  The Sigma brush shown was sent to me for consideration.  This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Extravagant Splurges: Holiday Gift Guide 2014

This week I am continuing my holiday gift guide with Extravagant Splurges, which includes gifts in the $50-$300 price range.  I am including my top picks for her, for him, and some gender neutral items.

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1. Victoria’s Secret PJ’s – A nice set of pajamas always makes for a thoughtful gift and Victoria’s Secret makes gifting them easy with a variety of styles and patterns already bundled up with a matching sleep mask.  One of the things I like most about Victoria’s Secret Pajamas is that they offer the bottoms in different lengths.  The Pillowtalk Tank and the Dreamer Henley sets are my personal favorites, but they have many more to choose from.  As an added bonus you can get a free pair of their waffle slippers with the purchase of a set of their Most-Loved PJ’s!  Just add the slippers to your cart and use code SLIPPERS at checkout (promotion good thru 12/3/2014). Suggested Retail: $52 $39.50 (on sale through 12/22!)

2. Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette – This palette is a special gift for the beauty gal in your life.  Hourglass makes my all time favorite blushes.  The only downside is that they’re very pricey ($35 a pop!).  This palette includes three very different but versatile shades in a sleek and stylish package that is easy to stow or travel with.  Suggested Retail: $58

3. Wrap Up by VP Robe – I purchased one of these robes for myself when I traveled to Miraval, a spa resort in Arizona, earlier this year and have absolutely fallen in love with it since I brought it home.  It’s the perfect robe, in my opinion, because it is soft and luxurious feeling without being too heavy or too light.  It’s truly the perfect year round robe.  Suggested Retail $208 (short) or $228 (long)

4. Michael Kors Selma Medium Satchel – I like including a handbag in my gift guide every year, because it is definitely a luxury item that many women don’t splurge on for themselves.  My husband gave me this MK bag for Christmas last year and it is such a beautiful gift.  The classic style can suit a variety of tastes.   The medium satchel is a great size with lots of room without being too bulky and is available in many colors.  It’s a beautiful and durable bag designed to last a lifetime.  Suggested Retail: $298

For Him:

5. Tumi Delta L-Fold ID Wallet – My husband never thinks to buy things like a new wallet for himself, but is always pleased to receive one as a gift when his old one starts falling apart.  I was on the hunt for a new one for him this year and picked out this one by Tumi.  Not only is it well made out of a beautiful and sturdy leather, but it also is made with Tumi ID Lock™ which is “a proprietary technology incorporated into the design of this product that protects personal data encoded on most IDs, credit cards and passports.”  RFID theft is a real thing nowadays and I don’t think it hurts to add an extra layer of protection, especially when it doesn’t add any extra bulk or change a stunning and simple design like this.  Suggested Retail: $95

6. ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen – When I asked Don what his number one gift pick idea would be for guys, he immediately mentioned his favorite instant read thermometer.  This gadget is perfect for the grill-master in your family.  It is fast, accurate, and splash proof.  What more could you ask for in a thermometer?  It’s also great for general cooking purposed.  Suggested Retail $96

7. John W. Nordstrom V-Neck Cashmere Sweater – Cashmere is always an extravagant splurge and makes for a luxurious gift for a special guy in your life.  I’ve given the gift of cashmere sweaters to my husband and other male family members with great success in the past.  This sweater from Nordstrom is a very high quality cashmere for the price and comes in a nice variety of colors.  It’s also available in tall sizes, which is a nice bonus for the tall guys.  Suggested Retail: $178

8. Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones – High quality noise-canceling headphones are so nice to give to anyone who travels a lot or is really into music because they can really enhance the audio experience.  I’m including them as one of my guy gift picks, however, because I find them particularly well suited for the guys you live with who might enjoy listening/watching some things that you do not, such as music, tv shoes, YouTube videos, or video games.  Not only does my husband absolutely adore his, they’re also a gift to me, too, as Don can just pop them on whenever he’s watching poker or some Netflix on his iPad that I may not necessarily be interested in hearing/watching as well.  Win win!  Suggested Retail: $270

Gender Neutral:

9. Williams-Sonoma Hot Chocolate Pot – I originally wanted to include my favorite hot chocolate machine, but after learning that it has been discontinued I went on the hunt for an alternative.  I found this little pot and couldn’t be more pleased with it.  It’s actually surpassed my beloved Bialetti hot chocolate maker!  It’s the perfect little pot to heat 1-3 cups of hot cocoa (or any other hot beverage) evenly and quickly thanks to the enameled steel design.  I love the pour spout and teak handle for easy pouring.  Pair this with the Williams-Sonoma Hot Chocolate Sampler, which includes three flavors of real chocolate shavings style mix, and you’ll hit a home run with the hot cocoa lover in your life!  Suggested Retail: $60 (pot) & $29.95 (sampler)

10.  Teavana Matte Contour Tea TumblerTeavana Holiday Tea Collection – I know I included the same tea collection in one of my gift guides last year, but I really wanted to include it again because I think it is such a lovely gift.  You get four 2-ounces pouches of delectable holiday-themed tea already wrapped up in a gorgeous box.  If you want to really step it up a notch, this tea tumbler is designed to brew loose leaf tea on the go.  Pop both in a gift bag, and voila, perfect gift for the tea lover!  Suggested Retail: $32.95 (tumbler) & $34.95 (tea collection)

11. Food of the Month Clubs – We’ve received a few food of the month style gifts from friends and family over the years and always enjoy them.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving!  And you can eat it!  It’s hard to beat that.  There are so many kind of food clubs to pick from and you really need to consider the giftee’s preferences in doing so.  Two of my top picks this year include Zingerman’s Quarterly Bacon Club, in which you receive 24 to 32 ounces of artisan bacon four times a year, and the Craft Coffee Subscription, which is a customizable coffee delivery program that you can fine tune to suit your coffee lover’s tastes. Suggested Retail: $199 (bacon club) & $19.99-24.99/month (coffee club)

12. Pottery Barn Faux Fur Throw – I recently picked up this throw for our family room sofa sectional and we are all in love with it (my dog especially)!  Not only does it look great on the couch, it is super soft and cozy to cuddle up under.  I think this would make a great group gift for a family or couple.  Suggested Retail: $129 $99 (on sale!)

13.  Garmin Forerunner 220 – This GPS watch is the ultimate gift for the runner in your life.  It’s fast and accurate and the new design is much thinner and lighter for ease of wear.  It’s the perfect way to easily track your runs on your computer or mobile device.  Suggested Retail $249 (without heart rate strap) or $299 (with heart rate strap)

Check out the video below if you’re interested in a closer look at these products as well as my thoughts on each one:

I hope you enjoyed this second installment of my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide and that it gave you some ideas or inspiration for gifts for your loved ones this holiday season.  Check out my Little Luxuries Gift Guide for my top picks in the $20-$50 range.  I will be back sharing my Stocking Stuffer guide ($20 or less) soon.  Happy Holidays!

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* Description contains affiliate & referral links.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Tea Time with Jen: Fall 2014

Tea time is one of my favorite times of day.  I love opening my tea drawer, picking out a blend, and brewing it to enjoy.  There’s something so soothing to me about holding a warm cuppa in my hands, inhaling the warm steam and savoring the aroma, and of course, the delicious taste.  I thought it would be fun to share my current tea favorites, including any recent empties, what I’m drinking now, any tea hauls, and my favorite tea accessories with you.

Tea Empties

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✻ Rishi Teahouse Matcha Green Tea Powder – I was on quite the green tea latte kick over the summer.  To make it, I heat up a cup of almond milk and then whisk in a teaspoon or so of this delightfully refreshing green tea powder until combined.  Usually I sweeten with a bit of honey before enjoying this frothy green goodness.  *Repurchased

✻ Numi Moroccan Mint – I raved about this delicious mint blend in my last Tea Time post and it is still one of my all-time favorites.  The mint flavor is sweet and mild and oh-so soothing after a long day.  *Will Repurchase

✻ Mighty Leaf Ginger Twist – I love ginger tea any old time, but especially when I’m not feeling particularly well.  I’ve tried many brands and blends and this one my Mighty Leaf is definitely my favorite.  The ginger flavor is the star of the blend but it does not overwhelm.  *Repurchased

✻ The Republic of Tea Caramel Apple – I became quite enamored with this festive red tea blend over the past couple of months.  It has such a nice, bright fall apple flavor.  Add a bit of honey and it really tastes like a caramel apple.  Yum!  *Repurchased

✻ Paromi Cinnamon Chai – This delightful rooibos is the answer to my search for a caffeine-free chai.  It has a rich, spiced flavor with a natural sweetness that holds its own.  *Repurchased

What I’m Drinking Now

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✻ Harney & Sons Pumpkin Spice – I picked this up on a whim earlier this fall at Barnes & Noble and immediately became smitten with the earthy fall flavor of this rooibos blend.  It doesn’t carry the same sweetness as the Paromi chai, but has a nice, rich flavor that is packed with spice.

✻ Mighty Leaf Organic African Nectar – If you couldn’t already tell, I’ve been really into rooibos blends lately.  This one by Mighty Leaf isn’t fall specific like some of the others in my tea drawer, but has more of a subtle, warm background that emphasize the earthiness of the rooibos.  It’s my go-to morning cup during any season.

✻ Tazo Organic Baked Apple Cinnamon – I picked this up at Whole Foods after I had run out of the Caramel Apple tea and was missing that apple flavor.  I must admit, this rooibos blend by Tazo falls a bit short flavor-wise, but it’s still quite nice as a more mild cup.

✻ Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Herbal Tea – I was on the lookout for a fall herbal blend that wasn’t rooibos-based when I discovered this cute fox on the box at Trader Joe’s.  It’s a lovely evening herbal with a hint of fall spice.

✻ Mighty Leaf Organic Mint Melange – Mighty Leaf reached out to me several weeks ago after noticing my deep fondness for their teas and asked if they could send me a gift as a thank you for my support.  Who am I to say no to the gift of tea?  They sent one of their samplers, including this wonderful mint blend, which I have enjoyed in years past.  It’s been nice to enjoy it again especially after I was only buying the Numi mint for awhile.  The Mighty Leaf blend has a great minty flavor without overwhelming the palette.  The aroma is heaven especially when dealing with stress or nerves!

Tea Accessories

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✻ Mighty Leaf TeaTop Brew Travel Mug – Mighty Leaf was also kind enough to send me this mug and I am honestly very impressed with the design!  Had I known about its existence prior to their gift, I would definitely have bought it to try out on my own, because I’ve been on the hunt for a solution to that pesky “where do I put my tea bag” problem when I’m on the road.  I often want to bring tea with me in the car, but I usually forget to allocate enough time for steeping before I go.  This ingenious design allows for the tea bag to be pulled up into a carved out portion of the lid to ensure that you never need to over-steep your tea.  I love it!

✻ Klean Kanteen Vacuum Insulated 12 oz – I’ve owned this travel canteen for many years and love how it keeps beverages hot for hours.  It’s my go-to pick when I’ve already managed to brew and steep my tea completely before heading out the door.  *Note – you have to buy the sip-on-the-go Cafe Cap lid separately

✻ Tag Autumn Owl Mug Set of 2 and Scheme and Sugar Mug – I’ve somehow turned into a bit of a mug collector over the years and I tend to use some more seasonally than others.  I’ve loved sipping out of my little woodland friends mugs this fall.  How cute are they?  It might sound silly, but a nice mug actually enhances the tea drinking experience for me.  I guess that’s how you know when you’re full out obsessed with tea!

Check out my coordinating video to hear more of my thoughts on these teas:

Mighty Leaf is very kindly providing a Garden of Herbals Gift Sampler as well as a TeaTop Brew Travel Mug like they gifted to me for one of you! The Mighty Leaf Tea Giveaway will run until Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and Mighty Leaf will contact them directly through email. Good luck!

*** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED ***

Congrats to the winners of theMighty Leaf Tea Giveaway Giveaway!

The Poll Results for *Which flavor of hot tea do you drink most often?* out of 1103 entries:

Chai (374) 34%
Other (214) 19%
Lemon (165) 15%
Berry (145) 13%
Apple (94) 9%
Hibiscus (68) 6%
Pomegranate (43) 4%

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties. If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I’d love to hear about your favorite teas and what you’re drinking now if you care to share.  Wishing you all a warm and cozy holiday season!  May your tea warm your days and nights :)

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*Post contains referral & affiliate links.  Mighty Leaf very kindly provided me with the Garden of Herbals Gift Sampler and the TeaTop Brew Mug as well as the giveaway prizes.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own.*

Little Luxuries: Holiday Gift Guide 2014

With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us are thinking about gifts for our loved ones.  I have decided to share my 3-part holiday gift guide again this year with posts broken down by price range.  These gift guides include some of my top picks for both guys and ladies as well as gender neutral gifts.  This week I am sharing gifts that fall under the $20-$50 range, which I’ve dubbed Little Luxuries.  These are items that I think many people would not necessarily splurge on for themselves but might enjoy being gifted.  I am also including some of my personal favorite host/hostess gifts in this price range.

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For Her:

1. Origins Mini Mask Marvels – I have used and loved Origins skincare products for years.  This gift set is a great way to try out three very different kinds of masks, including the Clear Improvement Active charcoal mask “to clear pores,” Drink Up Intensive overnight mask “to quench skin’s thirst,” and Out of Trouble 10 minute mask “to rescue problem skin.”  Suggested Retail: $22.50

2. Formula X The X Look – I like to include a nail polish set every year, because it’s a nice gift for the beauty gal in your life and something people don’t always splurge on for themselves.  I’ve been very impressed with the Formula X polishes lately and love this gorgeous holiday set.  It includes four mini nail lacquers in Obsessed (opaque classic merlot), Impassioned (purple pearl), Thrilling (opaque heather grey), and Temptation (iridescent gold pearl).  These are colors that are both festive and everyday wearable.  Suggested Retail: $25

3. Initial Disc Necklace with Birthstone – I discovered BijouxByMeg on Etsy early last year when I was searching for a personalized bee charm necklace.  I found the perfect piece I was searching for and fell in love with her shop of dainty, handcrafted jewelry.  You can’t beat the price for the quality of Megan’s beautiful handiwork.  I gave the initial disc necklace to my sister-in-law for Christmas last year with a “g” on it for her daughter, Grace, as well as Grace’s birthstone.  She loves it and wears it often.  It’s a beautiful gift for the moms, daughters, sisters, and girlfriends in your life.  Suggested Retail: $30

* Please be advised that Megan closes up shop usually by the second week of December until the end of the year so she can complete all holiday orders, so if you’d like something for the holidays, it’s best to shop in the next couple of weeks from her Etsy shop.*

4. LUSH Festive Friends – What says “pampering gift” more than some LUSH bath goodies?  This set includes two bubble bars (The Christmas Hedgehog and The Christmas Penguin) and two bath bombs (Dashing Santa and Butterbear) all wrapped up and ready to gift in festive paper and ribbon.  A LUSH bath is perfect treat to help unwind after a long day and makes for a thoughtful gift.  I know how much I love finding LUSH products under the tree or in my stocking on Christmas morning.  Suggested Retail: $29.95

5. Too Faced La Belle Carousel – I love perusing all of the fun and festive holiday sets that makeup brands release every year.  My top pick this year is from Too Faced.  I have so enjoyed both the Chocolate Bar palette and the Natural Eyes palette this year and was drawn to this gorgeous set all wrapped up in carousel-themed packaging.  It includes three mini eyeshadow palettes with four shades in each as well as two blush and bronzer palettes and a mini Better Than Sex Mascara.  You can split up this gift for smaller tokens to the beauty gals in your life or give the whole thing to one person for an all encompassing beauty set.  Suggested Retail: $49

For Him:

6. Bang – I think a fun and inclusive game is a great gift for a friend or family member who likes to interact in a little friendly competition.  Bang is a Wild West Card game designed to be played by 4-7 players in under an hour.  It will have your loved ones laughing together in no time!  Suggested Retail: $19.99

7. Skiva PowerVault Lightning External Battery – An external battery like this for your phone and/or tablet is more of a practical luxury item, but makes a great gift in my opinion for the tech-dependent fellows in your life who always seem to drain their batteries at the most inconvenient times.  Don and I both love our Skiva PowerVaults, which are Apple MFI certified and include both lightening and micro-USB cables for recharging a number of devices.  It charges through USB, has an on/off switch with lighted indications of how much charge is left, and is small and sleek for ease of travel.  Suggested Retail $49.99 $29.95 (on sale!)

8. ToddyGear Tech Pack -ToddyGear products are super useful luxury items for any guy (or gal) who loves a clean screen and/or glass lenses.  I have raved about their Smart Cloths for years as one of my all-time favorite stocking stuffers.  Now you can get all of ToddyGear’s best selling products in this great gift set, which includes both a 5”x7” and a 9”x9” Smart Cloth, a Pocket Toddy, and The Wedge Mobile Device Stand.  This is another great gift set that you could also break up and give as smaller gifts to a number of people.  Suggested Retail: $44.99

Use code Jen20 to receive 20% off your order at ToddyGear.com now through December 31, 2014.

9. Happy Socks 4 Pairs Pack – I have a couple of guy friends in my life who love to wear fun socks, even to their serious professional jobs (one is a lawyer and another a doctor).  This gift pack from Happy Socks includes four high quality pairs of socks in a nice range of colors and patterns already packaged up in a festive box.  Suggested Retail: $45

10. Beer Mug Set of 4 – We have two sets of these high quality glass beer mugs from Williams-Sonoma, which we’ve owned for over nine years now and look as good as new.  We keep ours in the freezer for the perfect frosty mug of chilled beer or soda to enjoy or offer to our guests.  The option to personalize with a monogram is an extra special touch that makes an awesome gift for the brew lover in your family or circle of friends.  Plus, they’re dishwasher safe!  Suggested Retail: $41.56 (plain) or $47.96 (with monogram)

Gender Neutral or Host/Hostess:

11. Olivewood Cheese Serving Board – This gorgeous cheese board is a lovely host/hostess.  I think it’s a great price for a beautiful piece that is made in Italy and perfect for the party-thrower in your circle or family.  Suggested Retail: $34.95 $27.96 (on sale!)

12. Winter Bird Mug Gift Set – I think the gift of a pretty mug set like this is especially appropriate during the holiday season when the cold weather really sets in.  I love the festive gift box that this set comes in, with no need for wrapping.  Or, you can pop this set in a gift bag with your favorite tea/coffee/hot cocoa mix for an extra indulgent present.  Suggested Retail: $19.95

13. Godiva Hot Cocoa Gift Set – Speaking of hot cocoa, I love this gift set from Godiva with four packets each of three delicious hot cocoa flavors, including milk, dark, and caramel cocoas.  It’s fun and festive with beautiful packaging.  Suggested Retail: $20

14. Wine & Wine Glass Writers – It’s hard to go wrong with a nice bottle of wine as a host/hostess gift.  Our favorite reds to give as gifts are the Ruffino Chianti (tan label) and Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon.  For whites, we love to give or serve the La Crema Chardonnay or Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuisse.  You can always pair a nice bottle with a fun and useful wine accessory for that extra special touch.  The Wine Glass Writers are a great way for guests to keep track of their glasses.  Just be sure to advise people to wait to pour cold beverages until after the ink has dried (it only takes about 15 seconds in my experience) to avoid smudging.  Once its dry, the ink will not smudge or budge until washing with soap.  Suggested Retail (wine glass writers): $9.95

15. Godiva 19 pc. Chocolate Box – Sometimes wine isn’t always appropriate to bring to a dinner or party.  In those cases I know I can always pick up a box of Godiva chocolates as a nice gift.  The 19 piece box offers a well-rounded variety of chocolate at a great mid-range price.  Suggested Retail: $30

Check out the video below if you’re interested in a closer look at these products as well as my thoughts on each one:

ToddyGear very kindly provided three Tech Packs as prizes for a coordinating giveaway.  The ToddyGear Tech Pack Giveaway will run until Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 6 PM CT. The giveaway is open internationally. All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  THREE people will win a ToddyGear Tech Pack similar to the one I shared in this post.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

*** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED ***

Congrats to the winners of theToddyGear Tech Pack Giveaway Giveaway!

The Poll Results for *What price range do you like to spend on holiday gifts?* out of 1541 entries:

$20 – $50 (1095) 71%
$50+ (313) 20%
Less than $20 (124) 8%
I don’t give gifts (9) 1%

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties.  If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide and that it gave you some ideas or inspiration for gifts for your loved ones this holiday season.  I will be back sharing my Extravagant Splurges top picks (gifts that are $50 or more) next followed by my Stocking Stuffer guide ($20 or less).  Happy Holidays!

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* Description contains affiliate & referral links.  ToddyGear very kindly provided the Tech Pack gift set I showed as well as the giveaway prizes.  All other items were purchased by me.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

November 2014 PopSugar Must Have Box & Special Edition Neiman Marcus Box

I have two PopSugar boxes to share a look at with you this month, including my regular subscription box as well as a special Neiman Marcus edition.  If you’re unfamiliar, PopSugar Must Have is a monthly subscription service where you receive a selection of full size and premium beauty, fashion, home, and fitness items for $39.95 per month (this includes shipping and is available in the US only).  They also release special edition boxes from time to time, which usually cost $100 a pop.  The Neiman Marcus edition is their most luxurious offering at $250.

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The November box theme is inspired by “gratitude, gourmet treats, indulging, hosting, giving, and gathering.”  Yep, that pretty much sums it up!  Once again, the theme this month is particularly well suited to the season.  As usual, there is a nice variety of items in this box ranging from beauty to leisure.

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What’s in the November box?

✻  The Secret Recipes by Dominique Ansel – This is the fanciest baking cookbook I’ve ever seen!  Apparently Dominique Ansel is the creator of the Cronut, which is a cross between a croissant and a donut.  I’m excited to peruse the beautiful photographs and fancy recipes! Suggested Retail: $35

Tiny Prints Thoughtful Heart Stationery – PopSugar founder Lisa Sugar teamed up with Tiny Prints, a custom stationery company, to create this pretty print.  I love using cards like these for thank you’s or to pop in the box with prizes I send off to my giveaway winners. Suggested Retail: $15

K. Hall Simpatico Ambergis Shea Butter Cream – My husband really loves the K. Hall soap that was in last month’s box so I was excited to see another product from their line this month.  This lotion is rich and moisturizing thanks to the shea butter formula.  It has a fresh slightly musky scent that is perfect year round. Suggested $22

Wine Glass Writers – This is such a cool concept and a perfect little hostess gift to throw in with some wine!  Guests can write their names on their glasses and then the ink comes off with soap and water. I’m going to try these at our Thanksgiving gathering this year.  Suggested Retail: $9.95

G.H. Cretors Chicago Mix Popped Corn – I have had this popcorn before and have to show such restraint not to keep buying it, because it is so good.  It’s the perfect combination of salty and sweet with a nice fresh crunch.  Double yum! Suggested Retail: $3.69

Sorial Saffiano Wallet on a Chain – I love this pretty little bag!  It’s the perfect size to just pop in a few cards, some cash, your phone, and a lipgloss.  The royal blue color is gorgeous and the saffiano leather gives it durability and a polish look.  Love it! Suggested Retail: $49

Check out my coordinating video to hear about my favorites from last month’s selections and see my reactions as I open this month’s box:

As I mention in the video, PopSugar actually sent me a box for consideration this month.  Since I am already a paying subscriber I have an extra box to give away.  Yay!  The November PopSugar Must Have Box Giveaway will run until Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  One person will win the November PopSugar Must Have Box just like the one I shared in this post.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).   I’ll announce the winner on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

*** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED ***

Congrats to the winners of the November PopSugar Must Have Box Giveaway!

The Poll Results for *Do you like subscription box posts/videos?* out of 2558 entries:

Yes (2469) 97%
No (89) 3%

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I decided to splurge and ordered the special edition Neiman Marcus box that was offered this month.  I have so enjoyed all of the special edition boxes I’ve ordered in the past and couldn’t resist the chance to see what would be included in this extra fancy edition.  It certainly did not disappoint!  The selection of items ranges from beauty and leisure to food and home, just like in the regular subscription box, but there is definitely a luxurious element to all of these items.  They are things I normally wouldn’t pay full price for so it’s fun to give them a try!

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What’s in the Neiman Marcus box?

Missoni Home by Apothia Candle – I had no idea Missoni made candles!  They partnered with Apothia to create a beautiful scent reminiscent of “Italian breezes and night-blooming jasmine.” Suggested Retail: $88

Mariebelle Aztec Hot Chocolate Tin – I was so excited to see this deluxe mix in the box as major hot chocolate enthusiast (read: fiend).  The chocolate shavings make for such a rich and indulgent cup!  Don and I tested this out last night heated up with some almond milk and it was so good.  Yum! Suggested Retail: $26

Swing Design Mia Glass Storage Box – This simple yet stunning box is the perfect place to stow away valuables on your nightstand or dresser.  I think it would make a lovely gift, as well! Suggested Retail: $40

Monica Rich Kosann Cream Enamel Frame – Another simple yet stunning home accent, this silver plated frame with an enamel border would make a beautiful statement in any home. Suggested Retail: $100

Clare V. Foldover Clutch – A lovely clutch with a bold statement with the royal blue color like this is a great way to add instant glamour to any outfit.  This colorblock clutch is made from abeautiful soft leather with golden hardware and is quite roomy. Suggested Retail: $220

✻ Chantecaille Brilliant Gloss & Supreme Cils Mascara – I’ve wanted to try Chantecaille beauty products for years but never even allowed myself near a counter because of the steep prices.  I am super excited to finally be able to try out some of their products!  The lip gloss in Love is my favorite pale pink shade with a hint of shimmer.  I’m also very happy they sent a water-resistant mascara since it my formula of choice. Suggested Retail: $33 + $52

OJ|TBBB_11-19-2014_05Lancer, The Method: Nourish – One item was unfortunately missing from my box.  This moisturizer claims to deliver the “Fountain of Youth” to your skin.  I contacted customer service through their online form and they told me they will send a replacement.  I am looking forward to trying this out!  Suggested Retail: $125

Check out my coordinating video for a closer look at each product and to see my reactions as I open this special edition box:

I picked up an additional Neiman Marcus box as a special gift for one of you!  The PopSugar Neiman Marcus Box Giveaway will run until Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  One person will win the the PopSugar Must Have Special Edition Neiman Marcus Box which includes all of the items I shared in this post (the moisturizer is in the giveaway box, I made sure of it).  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).   I’ll announce the  winner on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

*** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED ***

Congrats to the winners of the PopSugar Neiman Marcus Box Giveaway!

The Poll Results for *Would you splurge on a box of surprise products like this?* out of 2607 entries:

Yes (1635) 63%
No (972) 37%

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties.  If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I hope you enjoyed this look at my November and special edition Neiman Marcus box!  Click here to learn more about the PopSugar Must Have Box.  Use code REFER5 to save $5 off your first box!

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* PopSugar kindly sent me the November Must Have box I shared in this post and video for consideration.  I am giving away the box I received as part of my paid subscription.  I purchased the Neiman Marcus boxes myself.  Post contains affiliate and referral links.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Week In Review (November 10 – November 16, 2014)

My Week In Review (otherwise known as WIR) posts are just that: a review of my past week.  I post an update here every Tuesday sharing some tidbits of my previous week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram.  Here’s the buzz from my week:

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Brr!  Remember last week when I waxed on about the shifting of the seasons and how fall was fading slowly into winter?  Well, that ship has sailed and the winter weather has come full on with sub-freezing temperatures, icy winds, and even a little snow.  We had a beautiful autumn while it lasted and now we’re busy getting ready for winter by turning on the furnaces, putting out the winter quilt, stocking the freezer with homemade soups, and getting our warm coats out of the back of the closet.  As much as I don’t like being cold, I do enjoy the cooler weather (so long as I’m bundled up, of course).  Chilly evenings are a perfect excuse to cozy up under a cuddly blanket with Don and share some hot chocolate.  I love hot chocolate this time of year!  And you know what comes after chilly evenings…nippy mornings!  I’ve never been much of a bed dweller after I wake up in the morning, preferring to jump up and get the day started.  My dog Winnie, however, has different plans and wants me to stay in bed and cuddle her, especially on cold mornings.  How could anyone resist that sweetheart?  An extra five minute of belly rubs for my girl is the best way to start the day in my opinion.

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I know I must not be the only one who looks forward to certain cold weather comfort foods when the temperature drops.  My top picks right now include soups and teas.  The occasional grilled cheese sandwich is such a nice treat, as well.  I know that once the holiday season officially hits there will be lots of goodies around, and I do my best to enjoy them without overindulging.  Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Every year I grow more aware of the affect too much sugar and fat has on both my physical and psychological well being.  I strive to keep moderation in mind for the most part, but I catch myself slipping into old habits every now and then.  Watching EssieButton‘s latest video on YouTube about her health and fitness journey reminded me of my own journey and how far I’ve come from a less healthy point in my life when my self esteem really suffered to where I am now with considerably more confidence.  I am continually learning and growing in this, and I know this journey is a lifelong one.

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Speaking of journeys, I ventured out to The Container Store‘s newest location late last week at Roosevelt Collection in Chicago’s South Loop for their blogger preview.  What an amazing space!  I love that The Container Store has expanded its presence in Chicago with two new locations this year.  So many of you mention to me how much you wish a Container Store would come to your area.  They just might someday!  Their business is growing by leaps and bounds and it’s exciting to see organizational products in such high demand.

The rest of our weekend was pretty low-key.  We drove up to Milwaukee on Saturday night to go to a housewarming party for our dear friends from high school.  Even though it’s a little sad they no longer live in Chicago, Milwaukee is not so far away.  They threw a really nice party with a sea of snacks that were so tasty.  You know how much we like snacks in our circle!  I spent the bulk of yesterday catching up on comments and correspondence and putting the final touches on my holiday gift guide (which will be up soon!).  It’s hard to believe how soon it is until the holidays will be upon us.  I’m excited not only for this season, but also what comes after it.  I will be attending my first ever blogger conference, AltSummit, in late January.  It’s a big step for me out of my comfort zone but I am truly looking forward to it and can’t wait to share my experience with you.

If you’d like to see more from my weekend, check out my vlog:

As I mentioned in this video, I hope to film a check-in style video later this week to catch up with you guys and keep you in the loop.  There are some changes afoot, but all good things.  This online journey of mine keeps evolving and I with it.  I’m excited to be sharing more with you as we embark on the holiday season and new year.  Take care and keep warm!

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* Post contains affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

The Container Store’s Gift Wrap Wonderland

I get super excited when late October rolls around every year because it means that Gift Wrap Wonderland (GWW) is coming to The Container Store (TCS).  I’ve spoken lovingly about GWW for years.  It’s one of my favorite holiday kick off traditions.  You can imagine my excitement, then, when the lovely people at my local TCS (Northbrook, Illinois) invited me for a private tour of this year’s collection.  I am happy to be able to share the wonder that is GWW in photos and video footage with you.

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Every year The Container Store transforms the center of their store into the most expansive collection of holiday wrap and accessories I have ever seen in one place.  Not only does it include an incredibly large variety of festive wrap, but also every kind of gift packaging accessory you can think of from coordinating gift bags and tissue to ribbons, cards, and package embellishments.  The hardworking elves at TCS work on the collection all year round, pulling together past favorites and fresh new picks into gorgeous collections that cover a wide range of styles.  There’s truly something for everyone!  Quality is certainly not sacrificed for quantity at GWW, where I’ve personally purchased some of the most beautiful paper I’ve ever seen.  Each collection is carefully thought out and provides customers with everything they need to create the most simple package to the most elaborate.  Half the fun of getting a gift is anticipating what’s in the package.  The Container Store makes is super easy to find everything you need for your holiday packaging needs.

I took a lot of pictures (can you tell I was excited?), which I did my best to condense into collages to give you a sense of the space.

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There are six long walls of wrap in GWW, which are grouped by collection.  This makes it easy to find paper that coordinates well together according to your personal style.  The paper rolls are organized vertically in bins below a wall of coordinating gift wrap accessories such as gift bags, tissue paper, labels, cards, and embellishments.  Above these is a line of sample packages so you can see what each paper looks like on a box.

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In addition to the long walls of wrap, there are ten or so (I didn’t photograph them all) smaller collection displays set up on the ends of the GWW aisles.  TCS makes use of every available space in their setup for a total immersion experience.  These collections include some of the funkier prints, many of which are not necessarily holiday specific and can be used year round.  I especially love the silver and gold options as well as the new Handsome Holidays collection geared towards men.  I bought a couple of rolls to have on hand for birthdays and father’s days for the special guys in my life.

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One of the first things you see as you enter GWW is a large tree shaped shelving unit with gorgeous and festive presents wrapped to give inspiration on how to use the beautiful collections.  One of these flanks the front and the back end of GWW.  There are mesh bins with the coordinating wrap below so you can easily find what you get inspired by on the shelves.

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It must be so fun to help create these sample packages.  They really are gorgeously wrapped and give you great ideas for what you can create with all that GWW offers.

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If looking at all of those professional quality samples makes you feel a bit self conscious about your own wrapping skills, fear not, because TCS has that covered!  Every Saturday and Sunday between now and the end of December, TCS holds three Gift Wrap and Bow Demonstrations in store.  These are free and a great way to pick up some basic tips to get you well on your way to creating gorgeously wrapped gifts.  If you don’t live near a store, you can find help online with tips on wrapping and making your gifts really shine.

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If all this talk about gift wrapping and bows seems like a lot of fuss to you, there is a great selection of gift bags and pouches for quick and easy gift packaging that’s still fun and festive.  I especially love the drawstring pouches that come in a variety of shapes and sizes for wrapping awkwardly sized presents.

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I also love shopping GWW because they offer the best selection of gift boxes.  They have all of your gift box needs covered with an unparalleled selection of shapes and sizes.  They have both white and printed collapsible boxes in all different sizes as well as a nice collection of white, gold, and silver jewelry boxes.  Their premium boxes are nice enough to use year round as beautiful storage bins and the Gilded Gems print is so pretty all you need is a festive bow or ribbon and voila, beautiful gift, easily wrapped.

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There are a few smaller stands in the center of GWW with even more boxes and items to customize your packages such as stickers.  One stand includes useful gift wrapping tools, including all kinds of tape and dispensers, a paper cutter/folder, and even Neat Roll Fasteners to keep your wrapping paper securely on the roll.

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One of my personal favorite sections is dedicated to food storage.  As an avid holiday baker, I always pop over to GWW to pick up festive tins and waxed tissue paper  to package up holiday treats for my loved ones.  They also have a great selection of jars, baskets, treat bags, and more.  TCS has been expanding their entertaining line in recent years to include paper napkins and trays for holiday parties.  I am particularly intrigued by the Cotton Cocktail Napkin Rolls, which just tear off and can be washed and reused up to six times.

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While the bulk of GWW is located in the heart of the store, you can find holiday items sprinkled throughout the store with more food storage and gift wrap accessories.  There’s also a nice selection of gift card holders.  They even have both festive and functional shipping accessories to help you package up gifts for loved ones who live far away.

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TCS has also been expanding their holiday decor offerings in recent years.  This includes functional items such as surge protectors, garland ties, hooks, clips, and dinnerware storage cases.  They also carry festive holders to display holiday cards and wreaths as well as gorgeous stockings.  I was told that the decorative wood cutout trees and coordinating accessories were so popular last year that they expanded that line this year.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be The Container Store without containers for storing and organizing all of your holiday wrap and decor.  The entire back end of GWW is dedicated to storage bins, boxes, and bags to keep everything neat and tidy year after year.

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The center of GWW is Stocking Stuffers land.  I can’t tell you how many awesome stocking stuffers I have found at GWW over the years.  The elves at TCS are great about finding new and unique offerings every year while still carrying some of the tried and true customer favorites.

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You can find a nice variety of items here ranging from fun and silly to seriously useful.  Some of my favorites at first glance this year include the Citrus Zinger water bottle, The Laundress Clothing Care Travel Set, the Crumb Catcher Vacuum, and the Inflatable Crown.

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I thought I would share some of my top GWW picks with you while we’re on the subject:

1. Kraft Gift Card Holder Totes | 2. Small Winter Forest Cotton Sacks | 3. Signature Snowflake Tiles 2-Piece Gift Boxes | 4. Holiday Sparkle Tissue | 5. Scotch Pop=up Tape Deskgrip Dispenser | 6. Handsome Santa Gift Labels | 7. Snowman Money Holders | 8. Chevron Holiday Wrap & Tote Organizer | 9. Red Polka Dot Waxed Tissue | 10. Red Door Window Tin | 11. 1/2 lb. Plaid Coffee Bag | 12. Tree Storage Box with Wheels

I love that TCS carries gorgeous new wrap each year in addition to bringing back some customer favorites.  I usually do a big wrap stock-up run every other year.  Over the years I keep repurchasing prints I like so much that they have become signature wrap for me in my family.  A few of my favorites include Working Santa, Peppermint Stripe, Tartan Plaid, and Christmas Berries.  You can definitely get a sense of my holiday wrap style from these selections.  The great thing about GWW is that there really is something to suit everyone’s personal tastes.

I share a closer look at the GWW as well as my haul from this year in this video:

I thought it would be fun to run a giveaway so some of you could pick up some holiday wrap goodies.  The Container Store GWW Giveaway will run until Friday, November 21, 2014 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open to US entrants only.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  Four People will win a $100 gift card to The Container Store.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always. Good luck!

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Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties.  If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I hope you enjoyed seeing what I’ve been raving about all these years!  I have wanted to share the joy that is GWW with you for a long time.  Many thanks to The Container Store for helping make this dream of mine a reality.  I’d also like to thank the lovely folks at the Northbrook store who opened their doors to me early with a warm welcome and a lovely tour.  I highly recommend checking out GWW in person if you have the chance or perusing the website for great packaging ideas.  Happy Holiday Prep!

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* Post contains referral and affiliate links.  Giveaway prizes are provided by me.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

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