December 2016 archive

christmas home tour and a baby shower

I hope you all had a merry merry Christmas (or a happy Hanukkah)! We had the most wonderful day, and one of the best Christmases we have had. Earlier in December I hosted a baby shower for two beautiful friends who are due in January and February. It was a great reason to get my Christmas decorations up early, which allowed us to host many people throughout the season. Below are a few pictures of our home and a few from the baby shower set-up.

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

This little scene below is in our powder room and I laugh every time I go in there. We got the little cab from NYC earlier this year to use as an ornament on our tree (we get an ornament from each place we travel), but it ended up being the perfect addition to the bottle brush tree farm ;). It is difficult to tell in this photo, but the black frame is around a mirror and the back wall is reflected in the mirror. My mom and I recently wallpapered our powder room and I love seeing it when I open the door, with or without the winter scene.

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Both mamas-to-be moved into new houses earlier this year, so to incorporate this time in their lives, I made gingerbread houses modeled after their new homes with little gingerbread storks in the front yards. They made great decorations for the party and were a special favor for the women to take home to share with their spouses.

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

There was no shortage of food at the party, sweet or savory. The menu I used is below, with recipes linked where possible.

-Rosemary spiced nuts (from Foster’s Southern Kitchen cookbook)
-Mini chocolate chip scones
-Mini quiches (from Trader Joe’s)
-Butternut squash dip (I usually make this dip with goat cheese, as the recipe states, but with pregnant women in mind for the shower I swaped a mixture of cream cheese and parmesan cheese for the goat cheese)
-Caramelized onion tartlets (from Foster’s Southern Kitchen cookbook – I swapped out gruyere cheese for the goat cheese in this recipe as well)
-Doughnut holes (brought by a friend)
-Gingerbread onesies (my dad 3D printed a cookie cutter for me, but there are lots of onesie cookie cutters on Etsy)

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

I hope everyone has a relaxing end to 2016 and the holiday season and a great start to 2017! Happy New Year!

link love

We are here! It is Christmas Eve! It feels like December flew by, but this past week went by about as slow as molasses (at least my workdays did). I am so glad to have a break to spend time with family. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are! Until the craziness sets in (if it hasn’t already), here is some link love to tide you over.

link love 12.24.2016 oh holy night

via lindsay letters

Oprah interviewing Michelle Obama was wonderful. What a wonderful and composed power duo. The lovely ladies emanate wisdom, grace and hope, in a time where the whole country needs to see that on display.

On the same subject, we’ll miss you Barack and Michelle. This is a lengthy article, but a good read as we enter the final days of President Obama’s term.

It can be difficult to get your feet under you in any new city when you are looking for, or have just found, a new job. New York has the reputation of being even more challenging than most cities for people in this situation. I love this concept of a rooming house for women who were in just that position and don’t have a place to go yet. It is like a sorority house in the middle of the city that equips young women. So cool!

In the Christmas spirit, this group created a Rudolph version of Hamilton songs (Hamildolph). It is probably only for the Hamilton obsessed (me), since others may not see the similarities between songs. But if you love Hamilton, check it out!

Appropriate for Christmas, this hater’s guide to the Williams-Sonoma holiday catalog is hilarious. Don’t read it in a public place, for risk of laughing to the point that people start staring.

Another funny holiday post is this DIY for the worst snow globes ever. In case you needed a guide for what not to do (or a pick-me-up for your stressful day), this post is for you.

Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah!

homemade gifts and easy english toffee

We are in the final days before Christmas, and while I’m pretty much finished with my shopping (except maybe a few stocking stuffers and gift toppers), I still have lots of baking to do to make sure I can get our tokens of appreciation to the bus driver, mail delivery person, neighbors, coworkers and far-away family. We like to make cookies, candy and other small homemade treats for these people as a thoughtful, personal way to show our appreciation for all of their help and love throughout the year. I love making and wrapping homemade gifts in small packages tied with pretty ribbons. Some of our favorite treats that we make and share every year are shortbread bites, rosemary spiced nuts, gingerbread cookies, and marshmallows, but we decided to try something new this year with easy English toffee.

Easy English Toffee-12

As noted by its title, this English toffee is super simple. I didn’t realize before writing this post, but adding the almonds makes it English toffee, rather than just toffee, as if the British have a monopoly on almond usage. I love making this recipe with chopped toasted pecans in place of the almonds (which I guess would then nullify “English” in the title). Not only does it have a wonderful flavor, it also reminds me of the delicious Chapel Hill toffee we love to give family and friends as a memento from our small college town.

easy English toffee and other homemade gifts | passthecookies.com

Easy English Toffee-13

Though not absolutely necessary, it is helpful to have a candy thermometer (or at least a clean meat thermometer) to make this recipe. In order for the mixture to become a hard toffee, it has to reach a high enough temperature. The great thing about this easy recipe is that if your butter-sugar mixture doesn’t get hot enough to create hard toffee, you will have a delicious soft candy treat that is still wonderful to gift! It is difficult to mess up this recipe, which makes it great for the week before Christmas when you don’t have time for re-dos.

Easy English Toffee-14

Easy English Toffee-15

If you aren’t into toffee (though you should still try this because it is delicious) I have listed a few of my favorite homemade gifts you can make this week for the service people in your life, stocking stuffers, or just the difficult person on your list who you still haven’t found a present for.

Homemade rosé gummy bears
Peppermint bark
Shortbread
Hand scrub
Bath salts
Coffee syrup
Hot chocolate mix (homemade or not) with homemade marshmallows
Homemade amaretto
Easy English toffee (recipe below)

Easy English Toffee-16

This toffee is just as the name states – easy and delicious. And with the adjustment of a few ingredients it goes from English toffee to Chapel Hill toffee :)

Easy English Toffee
1 cup finely chopped raw almonds, divided in two (you can also use pecans for this)
18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks, divided in two (you can also use dark chocolate)
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
a pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (good quality, if you have it)

For this recipe, it is important to make sure everything is chopped and prepared before starting. You won’t have time or hands to do so after you start.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (as mentioned in the gift guide for bakers!) and sprinkle half of the chopped nuts onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the almonds are fragrant and slightly golden, stirring a few times while they bake. Toasting the nuts adds a great flavor to the toffee.

Melt half of the chocolate in the microwave in 15 second increments until smooth and spread evenly on top of the toasted nuts. The nuts might move around a bit – this is fine. When you are finished spreading the chocolate you can move some of the nuts back into place to make sure they are evenly dispersed.

Get ready, set your music and have your tools ready – this is where you are married to your pan and the toffee that is to come. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F on your candy thermometer. For those who don’t have a candy thermometer, the color of the mixture will be about the color of peanut butter. This takes 15-20 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the heat and quickly add in salt and vanilla. Immediately pour the toffee onto your nut and chocolate covered baking sheet, spreading it out evenly with a rubber spatula or offset spatula. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the hot toffee and when it looks like it is melted, spread with an offset spatula (like in the gif above!). Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top and gently press them into the chocolate.

Refrigerate for 1 hour before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. I find that it stays fresh longer in the fridge. You can also make this ahead and freeze for up to 3 months.

gift guide for stocking stuffers

Today gift guide focuses on stocking stuffers for everyone on your list. I always save stocking stuffer items for last. I like to take inventory of the presents we have gotten for everyone, see if there are any small things that would pair nicely with our existing presents, or just smaller items that I think they would love and be surprised to get on Christmas morning. I always love trying to gift something that fits someone’s likes and personality, but is small enough to sneakily fit in a stocking. The sneakiness is part of the thrill of stocking stuffers because it causes so much excitement and wonderful surprises :). These smaller ideas also make great presents for coworkers or friends. The best part? Almost everything on this gift guide for stocking stuffers is under $25, and for the two or three items that aren’t I have included an under $25 dupe! Let’s stuff some stockings!

Gift Guide for Stocking Stuffers

A unique sweet treat, like hot chocolate on a stick, rose gummy bears, cocktail sugars (the mint julep sugars are in the shape of horses in horseshoes!), or macarons from a local bakery, is a great addition to any stocking. It stands out from the rest of the festive candy and gives them something to look forward to trying after the big holiday. You can even add a personal touch and make your own hot chocolate mix and package it with homemade marshmallows.

With their small size and reasonable pricing, earrings make a great stocking stuffer. There are so many styles, making this an easy gift for lots of people. Include a jewelry travel case for easy storage of all their new gifted jewelry on their trip home.

Beauty products are also great sizes for filling stockings. Lipstick, nail polish, face masks, lotion, a sleep mask, and any of their favorite makeup items make great fillers that your mom and sister are sure to love and use long after the holidays pass.

I have listed this on almost every gift guide this year because I believe socks are one of the most versatile gifts. They are great rolled up as stocking stuffers, gifted to coworkers and friends, or under the tree for a family member. With so many styles there is a good pair for everyone. These reindeer socks are so cute for the holidays.

Warm slippers (these chic faux fur ones are only $20!) and a velvet bow make lounging around the house in the days following Christmas much more stylish, and a desk calendar and some journals will get them started on the right foot the next week when New Year’s comes around.

I hope this weekend brings some cookie baking, relaxation and stocking stuffing!

gift guide for the jetsetter

Moving from baking and cooking to one of my other favorite activities – traveling! This gift guide for the jetsetter is filled with ideas small and large for the frequent traveler or the on-the-go friends and family members in your life. Whether they are traveling across the globe or across town, there are items in every price range that make a thoughtful gift and help them in their busy, mobile lives. Some of these items are so useful for everyday life that I was tempted to get them for myself (looking at the travel mug, dry shampoo and clothes steamer). :)

Gift Guide for the Jetsetter | passthecookies.com

Starting with the most obvious, a duffel bag or weekender bag is a great gift for any frequent traveler. You can often find these smaller bags at great prices for their size, which makes your gift seem even more impressive ;) Duffel bags and weekenders are great for short trips and can be used as carry-on bags if they are the right size, meaning they are double as useful!

These luggage tags are so cute and a great addition to the jetsetter’s bags. The pretty hues will make it easier to find her luggage amidst all of the other bags on the baggage claim belt. These make a great stocking stuffer too!

I love all of the Rifle Paper Co. products, but their travel inspired paper goods are always some of my favorites, especially as I make it to more of the cities on their calendars and prints. This “bon voyage” calendar is perfect to help the girl on the go plan when she will be on trips and get some inspiration at the same time!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, socks are a great gift for ANYONE on your list. I always pack an extra pair of socks in my purse when I travel in case I get cold or just want to feel comfortable. I love these cute skiing penguin print socks to inspire a winter excursion!

I do lots of research before we take trips and always find travel books to be helpful. I have always loved the New York Times 36 Hours books since they are filled with great trip ideas, but are pretty enough to make great coffee table books and conversation starters. They have many variations, including specific regions and cities in the US, as well as more broad areas of different countries. To go along with the travel book, these language phrasebooks are a great gift for anyone who is planning on going on a foreign trip, but isn’t confident with their language skills. These books are pretty and so helpful when you need to know the right word for bread and how to ask where the bathroom is in a different language.

A travel mug is an easy gift for both constant travelers and just those who are on-the-go in general. They are convenient and a much cheaper (and cute) way to have coffee in the morning than a stop at the coffee shop every day. I love the ceramic ones that have started coming out – wouldn’t they be great for a car ride near or far?

One of the worst parts of traveling is forgetting things or not having the things you need on hand. These cute minimergency kits take care of that and come in so many colors and variations for anyone on your list (even one specifically for traveling!). Gift them to coworkers, friends, or in your sister’s stocking, and maybe stash one in your purse while you’re at it ;).

I always find that it takes more effort to look put-together after a long day of traveling. It is difficult to get enough sleep when you are on the go, which can affect the rest of your trip if you aren’t prepared. I love sleep masks for long plane trips (or really long car trips), especially when you are adjusting to a time change. They help you get some rest while in transit, which helps you look and feel less tired for the rest of the trip. Some of my favorite post-flight or post-travel products are dry shampoo and stay-all-day lipstick. In 1 minute you can go from a weary traveler to a fresh new girl, ready to see the sites. Face masks are a nice treat for anyone (and are great stocking stuffers!), but an especially great indulgence for those who travel often to give them some relaxation after what can sometimes be a long, stressful journey.

I have heard so many great things about clothes steamers and am so tempted to get one for myself. They are great for travelers to use when they unpack their suitcase of wrinkled clothes. There are lots of small ones that are very portable and are so affordable! This is also great for someone who might not travel a lot, but just doesn’t have a lot of time on her hands. A quick steam would be so much faster than pulling out the ironing board!

gift guide for the baker

As we head into the final weeks before Christmas, I have gift guides for people with specific interests. Sometimes I get stuck when I’m brainstorming for gifts for friends and family and don’t step back to think about other things they would like that aren’t obvious or already on my gift list. Hobbies and interests, old and new are great starting points. There are some gifts on here that are specifically great for those cooks, chefs and bakers in your life, but lots are also great gift toppers, coworker gifts, and presents for people who might not do a lot of cooking but are interested in learning more about it. One of the best things about this gift guide is that there are gifts for every price point. Some of these items are under $15 and with all of the sales going on right now nothing is more than $42! Just as I hope this blog provides inspiration and ideas that you can make in your kitchen at home, I hope this gift guide for the baker and chef can spark some present ideas for you too.

Gift Guide for the Baker

Silpats and nonstick baking mats are ideal for the baker who makes lots of cookies and pastries. Not only do they allow baked goods to release from the pan easily with little mess, they also help the products cook and brown at the same rate, so all of their cookies come out a uniform shade of golden. It is great for making macarons and choux pastry too!

I picked up a pretty pie server from the sale section of Anthropologie one day and use it more than any other serving piece in the drawer. It is great for serving pies, cakes, plated appetizers, pizza, quiche, you name it! I am shocked how often we pull it out, but so glad to have it on hand for unexpected entertaining. Since there is such a range of prices on pretty pie servers, you could give one to a hostess on it’s own, to a friend on top of the rest of their baking-themed gift, or in your dad’s stocking. Bake a pie and tie one on top for the perfect built-in gift and contribution to your in-laws’ feast.

Copper is clearly in vogue right now. I walked into Crate and Barrel the other day and saw a whole wall of copper tools and bowls. It is everywhere and it is beautiful. This copper-handled whisk, copper bowl and copper and rose gold colored measuring cups and spoons are an affordable way to bring the beauty into your favorite baker or chef’s kitchen. All of this copper reminds me of the wall of copper pots on the wall of Julia Child’s kitchen in the Smithsonian Museum. How can you go wrong with that famous chef as your guide?

I love a cute oven mitt and pot holder, and these Kate Spade ones take the cake (some quite literally)! These oven mitt and pot holder sets have such fun and whimsical patterns and even have aprons in matching patterns so your baker can be fully decked out and lovely while spreading flour and handling hot dishes (I imagine someone effortlessly doing both at once, while adjusting the music, spicing the soup on the stove and still making conversation with you. Maybe cute oven mitts have magical multitasking powers?)

Most bakers have the classic square metal pan for making brownies and bars, but this ceramic painted brownie pan would be a beautiful step up from the old (probably scraped up) one they usually use. Pretty enough to serve treats in, but useful at the same time – those are some of the best gifts. I always love gifts that I know someone will use, but wouldn’t typically buy for themselves (in this case because they already have a square pan, but not a pretty one). Local pottery stores or flea markets are also great places to find unique, pretty baking pans.

Another small gift that is extremely useful is a spoon rest. I never realized how useful it was until Will got one for Christmas last year. It has made cleaning up the stove and the counter so much easier since there is less to clean, and keeps your spoons from getting too hot because you don’t leave them in the pan. There are lots of great options that will blend in with your kitchen decor, and fun ones that stand out.

One of the best gifts you can get for chefs, bakers and home cooks of all experience levels is a cookbook. I have at least one cookbook on my list every year and love reading through the recipes (and the stories of the recipes) after we all exchange gifts and have some down time before brunch. No matter how experienced or inexperienced the cook, a good cookbook with new recipes is always useful and helpful. You can give them a cookbook written by a local chef, one you have and love, or a new one that you have heard great things about recently.

chocolate peppermint cookies

I have been on a chocolate and peppermint kick lately. Evidence: the box of peppermint bark in my pantry, the candy canes on the hot chocolate bar that is still up from a party last weekend, these chocolate peppermint cookies, the three other types of chocolate peppermint cookies I made in attempts to find the best one. Too far? Nah.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies | passthecookies.com

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies | passthecookies.com

I don’t know what it is about December, but I love the combination of chocolate and peppermint in just about everything this time of the year. I usually don’t like white chocolate, but when combined with semisweet or dark chocolate and peppermint bits, I don’t even mind it. Peppermint bark is so easy to make, but has also started popping up at Williams-Sonoma and Trader Joe’s for the season, which is exciting, convenient and dangerous all at the same time.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies | passthecookies.com

Today we are replacing the chocolate chips with bits of peppermint bark and crushed candy canes. The pieces are suspended in our deep dark chocolate cookie dough base, which balances out the sweetness from the white chocolate and peppermint candy. These chocolate peppermint cookies are soft and chewy, with melted chocolate pillows spread throughout. They are thick and dense and almost black in color from the dark cocoa powder we use.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies | passthecookies.com

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies | passthecookies.com

Can you imagine how good they would be with peppermint ice cream sandwiched between them? Or maybe straight out of the oven with a scoop of peppermint ice cream on top, melting down the sides of the cookie as the heat of the cookie comes in contact with the frozen ice cream? Yum!

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies | passthecookies.com

You can make these as small or as large as you want (just remember to adjust the cooking time). I like to make big ones if they are a gift for someone, but I prefer making small ones if I know there will be lots of other Christmas cookies around, so people can try multiple types of cookies instead of just one or two big ones.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Ingredients
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
¾ cup brown sugar, loosely packed
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
1 ½ cups peppermint bark, chopped into small pieces*
¼ cup crushed peppermints or candy canes, plus more for topping

*You can use homemade or store-bought peppermint bark. You can also substitute ¾ cup of chopped milk chocolate (semi-sweet chocolate chips will work too, they just won’t melt as much), ¾ cup of chopped white chocolate (or white chocolate chips) and 1 additional tablespoon of chopped peppermint candies for the peppermint bark.

To Make Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cold butter until it clumps together and forms a ball. Add the sugar and brown sugar and mix until combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time and beat until they are both fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla and peppermint extracts. The batter may not be smooth, which is fine. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture. Beat until the flour is almost combined but there are still some streaks of flour-cocoa mixture. Fold in the chopped peppermint bark (see notes for substitutions) and crushed peppermints or candy canes. Be careful not to mix the dough too much, or your cookies may become more tough.

Roll the dough into 1½ inch balls and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 8 cookies on the parchment-lined baking sheet with about 1-2 inches between each dough ball. Lightly press each dough ball down with your palm and sprinkle the tops of the pressed cookie dough with crushed peppermint candy. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until just set. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes before eating or serving.

Based on these.

link love

The days of this week have me all confused. I spent Wednesday thinking it was Thursday, the first half of Thursday feeling like it was Tuesday, and the second half of Thursday thinking it was Friday. I think my work holiday parties and Will’s different schedule have thrown off my internal calendar (do we have one of those? like an internal clock for days of the week?). It has been a full, but good week and I am excited to spend one of the last weekends before Christmas (can you believe that?!) spending time doing fun activities. Our home is decorated, most of our gift shopping is done, and now we get to soak in all of the festive cheer around town! I’m so excited!

link love German Christmas Market Small

via my study abroad trip!

Before we get started with the weekend, here is some link love to bring you through Friday.

This honest museum audio tour is hilarious and so perfect. Can we have honest museum audio tours in real life? Who do we talk to about this?

Have you seen the video for the new Amazon Go store? The concept is amazing! It seems so strange now, but I’m sure it won’t be soon. How cool would it be to not have to wait in a line? I like the employee interaction in stores like Trader Joe’s, and even some of the local shops, but this concept is so cool!

I am on the lookout for The Night Before Christmas book with pretty enough illustrations to keep out on the coffee table. So far this one and this one are winning. Your vote? I haven’t had time to check out the ones in physical book stores yet, so I’m excited to see if there are any that I like that haven’t made their way to the top of the online shop lists.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is not near the top of my favorite Christmas songs, but this music video sung by Idina Menzel and Michael Buble is cute. The setting and character dynamic almost reminds me of a combination of Eloise and Grand Budapest Hotel.

I love the candy canes and peppermint flavors that come out this time of year, and have already made a few types of “test cookies” ;) with minty combinations, so it is no surprise to see that peppermint bark gelato caught my eye. What better way to use it than in a peppermint affogato (or maybe a milkshake)? Like panna cotta, affogato sounds fancy, but is one of the easiest desserts to make (you literally pour espresso over ice cream). This peppermint dessert might need to make its way to our table this weekend.

Happy holiday weekending! I hope you see pretty lights and greenery all around!

gift guide for him

Yesterday I posted a gift guide for all of the women in your life. Today, we are moving on to the guys with a gift guide for him! Just like in yesterday’s gift guide, there are gifts of all price ranges so you can get a great gift for grandpa, the perfect present for your pa, and a superb stocking stuffer for your secret Santa, Sam. ;) Sometimes I feel like the guys in my life are some of the most difficult to shop for (looking at you, Will and Dad). Over the years I have gotten better at knowing what they would like and what would be good gifts for any guy in case I can’t find anything specific for them. It is helpful to know their interests (which I talk about a little later), so you can make the gift more personalized for them.

Gift Guide For Him

Will and I both love a good quarter zip. The “Better Sweater” fleece jacket from Patagonia is a great option for casual weekends and evenings when there is a chill in the air but a full coat is overkill or as an extra layer under your coat when it is really cold outside.

Button-down shirts are always on Will’s gift list, since he wears them every day in the clinic. I love the festive plaid of this button-down shirt (and at less than $25 it is such a great price). It would be great for Christmas parties, but could also be worn with a simple tie in a fancier setting. This great tartan bow tie is another great gift for the guys who dress up often. It would go well with one of the solid button-down shirts for all of his Christmas celebrations.

Whiskey wedge ice molds, grill tools and Yeti tumblers are great for any guy on your list, especially when you are stumped on ideas. Yeti tumblers keep drinks cold or hot for hours and they come in collegiate versions for his favorite team. I didn’t find this out until recently, but Yeti also offers customization, so you can put his initials, a logo or text on any of the tumblers.

I said this in the gift guide for her and I stand by it for guys too: socks are great for anyone on your list on their own or as an add-on gift. I think these Star Wars socks are hilarious and perfect for Star Wars fans, especially as the new movies come out, but the classic patterns are also great for those whose fandoms you aren’t aware of (like your office secret Santa).

Another gift that can easily be personalized is a book about their interest or hobby. Coffee table books with photos and information are great, and you can choose whichever topic they like. If they are interested in travel, get a travel guidebook. He likes golfing? This book about golf courses around the world is perfect. He wants to learn more about backyard chickens? Guides to specific subjects like those are easily searchable on the vast book source that is Amazon and make for a thoughtful gift.

For the boyfriends, husbands and dads, a nice sweater is a great gift idea. Cable knit, v-neckwool, there are so many options. I like to stick with a classic look or a color I know they will wear often. The color of their alma mater is also a good bet, since they will have a reason to wear it on game days ;). To get even more personal than just a sweater in their team’s color, these knitted college sweaters are so cute and much classier than a sweatshirt. You can even get one customized if you don’t find his school!

Pajamas (a set or just pj pants) are easy and a very traditional gift for Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. To go along with the nighttime routine, this toiletry bag is sturdy and great for long and short trips. Will likes to keep all of his essentials in a small bag like this so he can grab everything he needs when we go out of town or if he is on-call in the hospital overnight. Some of these smaller bags are great prices too.

Finally, one of the most exciting gifts – the gift of technology! The Amazon Fire TV Stick, Tap, Echo, and Echo Dot, a bluetooth speaker and the brand new Google Home are all great gifts that are sure to spark excitement on Christmas morning. The Fire TV Stick, Echo Dot and some of the bluetooth speakers are $50 and under and are great gadgets to play with on Christmas Day!

Guys can be difficult to shop for, not because they are difficult to please, but because sometimes I don’t feel like what I get is personalized enough to be a great gift. I hope these ideas help you in your gift searching and giving process!

gift guide for her

It’s gift guide season! I always get so excited to share gift guides here. Every year I try to find the perfect gift for each person on my list. Some are more difficult to think of than others, and I’m here to help you in that dilemma. We’re starting off with a gift guide for her –  what to get the women in your life. There are gifts of all price ranges here to help you in any situation (because what you give your secret Santa likely isn’t what you’ll give your mom)!

Gift Guide For Her

Socks are the perfect gift for anyone who stumps you. Gift them on their own to your secret Santa or friend, in a stocking for anyone, and in a set for a great cozy gift. I love some of the fair isle and seasonal patterns that are out this year – so cute!

I got this puffer vest in navy earlier this year and LOVE it! You can wear it with almost everything. The red one, or even a furry one, would be so cute for the holidays, and looks good on everyone! If you get this particular vest I recommend sizing down.

How cute are these flats?! They may be more of a Santa wishlist item, but would be adorable to wear to Christmas dinner! The pointed toe in a classic tartan pattern is so pretty. These would be a perfect gift for mom (though I don’t think any generation would mind getting a pair).

I love giving and receiving earrings – they are a great, easy gift. I don’t usually think of buying them for myself, but I love feeling fancy and put-together when someone gives me a pair. Some of my favorite earrings have been gifts and I think of the giver every time I wear them. There are tons of beautiful statement earrings out right now (the tassel earrings are on my gift list ;)), but the more dainty ones are great for everyone if you aren’t sure of their style. Monogrammed anything is such a personal touch, and these monogrammed studs would be perfect for your bff or in your sister’s stocking.

Another wishlist item, this lace peplum top is so beautiful. Both the blush and hot pink colors are gorgeous and it truly elevates even a pair of jeans to the next level. Perfect for party hopping, workdays, pretty weekend outfits, I think this is one of the most beautiful tops out there right now. All the heart eyes!

You can never have too many scarves. Scarves are a great gift for any style and any age. I love the plaids and stripes, but this neutral one is such a pretty hue and would be lovely with every outfit you put together.

Lipstick, nail polish and face masks are perfect for the girly girl who wants to feel pampered. I love the bright red hues for the holidays! These small items make great stocking stuffers and gift toppers too!

The pretty gold initial mug has made it’s comeback this year after being so popular in holiday seasons past. I got one of these last year and love using it for my morning tea, or evening hot chocolate. It is so cute and the perfect size. At $10 you can’t beat the price point either! This one is perfect for your secret Santa, your friends, and your sister-in-law. Fill it with hot chocolate mix and homemade (or these cute store-bought) marshmallows and you’ll have the cutest (and super affordable!) gift!

Cute leggings are meant-to-be for the on-the-go woman in your life. Whether they are used for athletics or athleisure, the recipient will look cute while wearing them. These Kate Spade versions have adorable little bows on the backs of the legs, and the new New Balance for J. Crew cropped leggings come in a pretty blush pink!

I have heard great things about the book, In the Company of Women. It is a combination of advice and inspiration from over 100 female artists, activists, bakers and entrepreneurs, to name a few. The short interviews and stunning photographs make it a great coffee table book that you always want to pick up.

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