christmas shopping

10 Christmas Gifts My Siblings and I Loved/Hated (As Told by Photos) (List-cember #7)

On Christmas Eve, the day before those who celebrate Christmas sit around and eat and laugh and open presents and then crumple wrapping paper into balls and shoot them into trash bags being held by family members across the room, I sit looking at the gifts under my tree. I’m excited to give them to everyone and excited to see their face when they open it, I might even take a picture or two.

My family is full of picture takers, especially on Christmas, so I’ve made it a tradition during List-cember to share some of my favorite photos taken while we were opening presents. I like guess what was going through our heads in that moment.

And I think I’m probably right.



What I’m (probably) thinking here: Remember Troy, no matter what’s wrapped in that paper, I’m one of the best gifts you’ll ever get.



What my sister, Natalee, is (probably) thinking here: Every badass, superhero, fashion icon, and historical figure needs a soundtrack. And since I’m clearly all four, it’s high time I’ve finally found mine.



What I’m (probably) thinking here: Okay, okay, okay, guys, PICTURE THIS: Pantsless Pez-days. Who’s in?



What I’m (probably) thinking here: Yeah, the gift is great. It’s a Barbie and I’m super excited but uhh…does anyone else see the look she’s giving me? Does anyone else think she might be planning a homicide?



What my sister is (probably) thinking here: I always hoped my future daughter would look like me and I mean, would you look at this?! It’s practically uncanny!






What my brother, Troy, is (probably) thinking here: Block!



What my sister is (probably) thinking here: First step Fashion Factory, second step runway model. Is this smile pretty?



What I’m (probably) thinking here: Do these bracelets make the fur of my Santa hat look a little more subtle?



What my sister is (probably) thinking here: Yes, that’s right Santa. Check that list twice. 


Merry Christmas, everyone!

You can check out the previous editions of this series here and here. 

Last Minute Christmas Shopping Tips (List-cember #7)

I have always loved Christmas shopping. I love the paper, I love the bows, I even love the ribbons that take me 15 times to curl. And since it is less than 4 days until Christmas, a.k.a CRUNCH TIME, I thought it would be helpful to give you some tips on finding the best gifts.

Not to brag (and by that I mean, listen up, I’m about to brag) but I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. My presents are already wrapped and under my tree! (Brag over) I was way ahead of the game this year! (Woops, sorry, now the brag is over) But that doesn’t mean I can’t relate to the struggle and panic associated with the week of.

In years past, I’ve often found myself in the 20’s of December, pacing around the mall and/or my living room, very calmly asking myself, “WHAT THE &*%# AM I GOING TO DO?!?!?”

As fun as it is to send yourself on a downward spiral of worry and panic however, it kind of ruins the magic of the gift giving season. So whenever I reach that point in my shopping experience, I return to these steps:


1) Relax

Seriously, start by just breathing in and out, for as long as you like. (Or until you pass out, but that’s not recommended) Then, remember that there is no “perfect gift.” There is no be-all end-all present you have to find amongst the thousands of red tags in order to retain a healthy relationship with whomever you’re shopping for. Take careful note of the cliché, “it’s the thought that counts”, and then move to step 2.


2) Reminisce

I often like to shop for people one at a time. So once I’ve picked a victim loved one to start with, I’ll open up an imaginary slide projector in my mind and scroll through all of the memories and conversations I’ve shared with them over the past year, to see if anything stands out. Even if I can’t come up with anything specific, I’ll take concepts and inside jokes and look for gift ideas that relate.


3) Visualize

When I get an idea of something I might want to buy for that person, I visualize what their reaction will be like. Will they laugh? Will they cry? Will they roll their eyes (in a good way)? How do I hope they’ll react?


4) Add to Cart

I’ll admit it, I’m a big online shopper, but this step can apply to both web and in-store searching. After I find what I want, I’ll stick it in my cart and just let it rest there for a little while, giving me time to repeat steps 1-3. Now, I realize this is more difficult when you’re shopping on the last few days before Christmas or, say, Black Friday, because there are hundreds of other hungry shoppers willing to fight you for whatever the item(s) in question may be. But it’s a general rule (and by general rule I mean, THIS SHOULD BE OBVIOUS YOU CRAZED ANIMALS) that once something is in your cart, it’s yours. So for the most part, you shouldn’t have any prying hands. Just stick it in the cart, let the prospect of the purchase marinate, and do a lap.


5) It’s okay to crunch numbers

Anyone worth giving a gift to will not care how much you spend on it. Take note of where you are financially and don’t put yourself out just because you think you have to. If times are tough, sometimes the best gift is company. Just take the time to go see them, give them a call, write them a letter, anything that says, “I appreciate you,” because in the end, that’s the core of gift-giving.


6) Be proud of your gift

There have been so many times when immediately after I’ve bought something, I convince myself it’s the stupidest idea ever, especially once I see or hear about a gift being given by someone else. That’s way better than mine. It’s way more expensive. It’s way more adorable. It sparkles. Etc. Etc. Etc. But then I think about how, no matter what gift I am given, I’m always filled with gratitude, and gratitude is one of the greatest feelings in the world. So be proud of the fact that you’ve put in the time and effort to help someone you love feel it.


6) Go ham on wrapping

I’m a perfectionist, so I often spend a lot of time trying to make a gift look as clean and nice as possible. However, sometimes it’s best to just kitchen sink it and wrap it with whatever you can find, in any way you can muster. Some of my favorite materials I’ve used in a pinch are aluminum foil, paper towels and staples.


7) Be thankful for their “thank you” and don’t expect anything in return

It’s extremely easy to walk into a gift-giving situation with your ego high and your expectations higher. You are proud of the gift you’ve bought and are expecting something good in return. Truth is, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Take time to appreciate the gratitude they have for you and learn to love that more than anything they may give you in return.


I wish you all the luck in your last minute shopping endeavors, and more importantly, I wish you a very Merry Christmas!


Miss a List-cember post? Find them all here.

The Ultimate Christmas Present

It was approximately 13 hours into the first day of November when I bought my first Christmas present.

I had a goal: Finish Christmas Shopping Before December.


There are always the stragglers. The friends or family members that are a little bit tougher to buy for. You try the creative route, the functional route, even the slightly above your price range route, but nothing fits, and then suddenly it’s the 3rd week of December and you still have nothing.  By that point I’m usually knee-deep in a giftless panic and I find myself tempted to buy them a snarky pair of socks that say, “Hey, you suck to buy gifts for, I hope these make your shins itch.”

Confession: I probably deserve these socks. I’m definitely a, “I don’t need anything” or “I have no idea what I want but it would be cool if you could read my mind and find something that I didn’t even know I wanted,” kind of person. Apologies, Mom and Dad.

Yes, it’s true, I never know what I want. Honestly, I have a much better time giving than I do receiving.  And I’m neurotic: I buy based on themes. Each year, I decide on a theme for each person, and I proceed to buy small pieces that correspond to that idea.

Spoiler Alert: I’m crazy.

When I was little I used to comb through the commercials, writing down the things that I wanted on a legal pad, already dreaming of ripping away the wrapping paper.

One year I asked for a Password Journal.  A diary that would only unlock at the mention of your password, thus keeping all of your juicy secrets safe! It was a must have. I would finally be able write about Jonathan Taylor Thomas without worrying about my mom finding out how cute I thought his hair was.

Spoiler Alert: Password Journal is the alcoholic cousin of Siri and your navigation system. She never understands anything you say, and makes you scream “THE PASSWORD IS TWEETY SPARKLE” at the top of your lungs on a daily basis.

Another year I fervently pined for a “Baby Alive,” a doll that was so real that when you fed it, it crapped its pants. I COULDN’T GO ON WITHOUT IT. I so desperately needed a pooping baby that I could mother for a few months and then lose under my bed.

The summer before I started middle school, I found my new obsession. My favorite Sunday school teacher, Lanette had invited a group of the older kids over to her house to spend the night as a sending off party of sorts, since we were all graduating into the Youth Group and starting middle school. To me, Lanette was the bomb. She had her own apartment, she said my Barbie’s were cool, AND she had passed middle school before and said it wasn’t even that bad. All the makings of a legend.

When I arrived at her house for the sleepover, I was exhausted; I had just hosted a “Rewind Day” at my house. Yes, Rewind Days are exactly what they sound like. I would pick a day, sometimes in advanced, sometimes on a whim, and go through our entire shelf of movies and ensure that every VHS tape was rewound and placed in the correct case.

Quick reminder: I’m crazy.

I would sit in front of the VCR, endlessly feeding it tapes, wiping my brow, and leaning into the TV stand, commending myself on a job well done. “It’s not easy, but you gotta do what you gotta do” –my mantra, that I thought was sure to one day ignite the masses and rid the world of un-rewound tapes. I’m pretty sure my mission indirectly inspired the DVD.

As my friend Lauren and I skimmed Lanette’s VHS collection—eventually landing on Shrek—I came across a small rectangular contraption with a VHS tape inside. It couldn’t be a VCR, I thought, it only had one button. Both fascinated and puzzled, I pushed the button and heard the machine ziiinnnggg to life. It….rewound it.

I was floored.

Now I could watch a VHS while simultaneously hosting a Rewind Day. WHAT MAGIC.

I never got a rewinder, since DVDs entered the picture soon after and blew my mind all over again, but when I think about it now, it acts as a reminder of: a) the sheer wonder I can still feel radiating from my face as I saw it work its magic (a feeling I experience now when I see new apple products or drive through a car wash) and b) how even the seemingly smallest, corniest, stupidest gift could mean so much to someone, because of the personal meaning it holds beneath the surface.

Except password journals, they will suck forevermore.


Merry Christmas!