A Christmas gift guide you can afford

I can’t believe it is already that time again – time to buy gifts for the holidays! I luckily have already gotten basically all of my/our shopping done this year, but usually I am scrambling till the end. Last year I put together this gift guide for you guys, and honestly all of that is still relevant for this year, too! I’ve seen so many gift guides out there this season, and even if some of the items are in my realm of budget, most of the items are outrageously expensive. We all deserve to be spoiled, but I can’t justify or afford spending $150 on a blanket or a cardigan for all my girlfriends. OBVIOUSLY once we win the lottery this won’t be an issue, but until then, we are on a two teacher budget so here are some nice gifts you can afford this holiday season ūüôā

1. Barefoot dreams socks¬†– I was able to find some of these for even less than this link shows, but these are hot sellers this season! They are incredibly soft and cozy, perfect for lounging around the house or sticking into some boots when it’s really cold out! The perfect cozy splurge, because I can’t afford the cardigan that is over $100!

2. Wicks for wags candles – I always personally think candles are a nice gift, because they can actually get pretty expensive and you always want to have several around! My friend Meghan got me one of these and I LOVE it. I love a gift that gives back, and this shop gives at least 10% of the money they make on candles to help animals in need. Read more about their cause here. Plus, it’s a gift from a local vendor and supports a small business!

3. Joanna Gaines Homebody design book or Magnolia Table cookbook, Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings or Hungry for More cookbooks. I have two of these, and would love to have the other two. Wonderful gifts that someone might not want to purchase for themselves.

4. Dior lip glow – I have seen this product raved about for years by different bloggers and finally bit the bullet on one during Black Friday sales to try it out. It is as good as they say it is!!! A great way to treat someone to a pretty and practical gift that they will get use out of! The perfect hint of color and intense moisture.

5. Slippers – I think a nice cozy pair of slippers is a great gift for the holidays. I like these and these!

6. Flannel pj shorts – if you get hot like I do when you sleep, flannel pants can just be too much. But I love Old Navy’s flannel boxer pajama shorts!

7. Books – Educated is the latest book I read and I am just amazed at this incredible story. I read it in two days over the weekend and could not put it down! I am dying to read Girl, Wash Your Face and Where the Crawdads Sing next. For more ideas,¬†here’s a great list to get you thinking if you know someone who loves to read!

8. The Yellow Bird products – I have written about this company before here. All natural, chemical free products that make for wonderful gifts for anyone!

9. The Little Market is always a great place to shop for items that give back – candles, jewelry, home goods, tote bags, you name it!¬†I love these tassel earrings and this dainty tassel necklace. Whitney got us tassel bracelets for being her bridesmaids in April, and I never take mine off! This tiny pearl necklace is also a perfect dainty piece.¬†I also love The Flourish Market for spending money towards a good cause (local in downtown Raleigh if you’re in the area!).

I also think another great gift idea is to give the gift of a subscription box! One month, three, or whatever you can afford Рthey all offer different options! Some subscriptions I have used or been gifted in the past and have really enjoyed are FabFitFun, Shaker & Spoon, GlobeIn, Cloth & Paper, and Ipsy. There are also subscription boxes for pets, wine lovers, chocolate lovers, all kinds of things!

I can never find a gift that seems right for the men in my life, no matter how many different types of gift guides for men I peruse. So some ideas I actually DO like for men include flannel pajama pants, slippers, a Yeti mug if they drink coffee, a beard hair catcher for easy clean-up if they have facial hair, or a nice flannel shirt or jacket. There are all kinds of gadgets out there for men but I have seen this digital grill thermometer in a few different places, so if you have a guy that loves to fire up the grill, this is probably a great idea!

Hopefully this list at least sparks some interest or gets you thinking about some things you could get for some people you may be having trouble thinking about! Christmas will be here before you know it – I just got up my Christmas decorations over the weekend, so I’m already feeling behind!

Happy shopping!

FriYAY feels!

Friyay! I still can’t believe we’re engaged and I am still just so happy and excited! My friend Lindsey got me this mug as an engagement gift. I also had a couple of students who got me little engagement gifts, which is so sweet. We are working on securing a venue and date right now, and I just signed up for an account with The Knot to help me keep track of all my wedding planning and details!

Other things I still can’t believe include the fact that Christmas is in THREE DAYS. What?! I feel like such an old fuddy-duddy saying this, but it seems like it just comes faster and faster each year (I also feel like a fuddy-duddy for even actually saying fuddy-duddy‚Ķblame my future husband for that lingo).

My Christmas gifts are all wrapped up and ready to be delivered. I won’t see some friends to celebrate until after the new year, so that’s always a fun thing to look forward to once everything else has quieted down. I got everything ready last night for heading home: ¬†Laundry, wrapping gifts, last-minute cleaning before leaving, packing up myself + the doggies, etc.

One of the best Christmas happenings is that one of my very best friends had her baby girl this week!!! She has the sweetest face and name, and I can’t wait to hold her and love on her as soon as I possibly can. A lot of the people I care most about are having babies, getting married, and making big life changes that are all exciting. It just feels like a happy – yet hectic – time in life.

Finally, yesterday my department at school had a Christmas party and it was a pot luck. I brought my “famous” banana pudding. Everyone raves about it, so I thought I’d share it here! I actually got it from my dad’s wife Kathy, but it is always a HUMONGOUS hit and it is so delicious. It’s adapted from Paula Deen’s recipe, and I think the difference is in the pudding mixture, lemon juice for the bananas, and the type of cookies that you use. Literally every time we have a department function, everyone wants the banana pudding. Give it a try this Christmas and see how delicious it is!

Not Your Momma’s Banana Pudding

1 (12 oz.) container cool whip – this generally comes in 8oz containers so I usually just use the leftover 4oz for low fat desserts!

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

2 cups milk ( I use 2%)

1 (5 oz) box instant French vanilla pudding mix¬† (I can never find this in French vanilla and just go with regular vanilla. MAKE SURE it’s instant!)

6 to 8 bananas, sliced  (dip them in a small bowl of lemon juice before layering them)

2 bags chessmen cookies  (Pepperidge Farm РI always buy 3 bags, because sometimes there are broken ones in the bag and I am extra and want it to look nice…and also because extra cookies)

Note:  Of course, you can make any of these lighter by using low-fat options.

Line the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.

In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using a separate large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

There it is! The best banana pudding I have ever had, seriously. The lemon juice keeps the banana slices fresh and correctly colored, and it also adds a nice something to it. On top of that, the pudding part itself really is delectable. This time my sister made it for me while I was at school to help out – she is the best!

That’s it for now! I am heading to Andrew’s mom’s house for a night, then to Asheville with my family for a few nights over Christmas, and then I’ll be back in town to enjoy my last few days off before school starts back up again. I plan to write before or on the new year, because I have a couple of resolutions I want to share! Everyone have a very merry Christmas!

‘Tis the season

deck the halls

There are two kinds of people in this world: ¬†People who get ready for Christmas well before Thanksgiving, and people who follow the “after Thanksgiving” rule. I am with the second group! I absolutely¬†love Christmas time, but I also love Thanksgiving, and I like to keep things in their boxes!

I had a great time with my family for Thanksgiving. We always go to my aunt and uncle’s house in South Carolina, and we have a big, loud, crazy group! There are always about 12-15 of us, and now we have some young ones again in the family running around, which always makes everyone happy! We eat a ton of delicious traditional Thanksgiving food and we are champion snackers. This year, my family brought a huge cheese platter and it was a big delicious hit!

I got sick over the holiday and then my car broke down when I tried to come home, so I spent an extra day in Asheville than originally planned. Luckily, I’m starting to feel better and my car is fixed, and there is still a lot to be thankful for – a warm home, loving and kind family and friends, Andrew, food in my belly, and two sweet and crazy pups! But I had planned on decorating for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, so that had to wait.

This weekend my sister comes home from her clinical rotations (she’s been staying in Asheville with our mom), and we will deck the halls of our 2 bedroom apartment together! We won’t get a real tree, which is of course always best, but less convenient in a 2nd floor apartment. I love decorating for Christmas and baking yummy treats for the holidays! This year, I plan on making these pretzel rods, Christmas Crack, and the always classic Chex mix. A few things keeps it simple and then I can divide it out in little goodie bags or small mason jars that can be reused! I love to just burn a holiday scented candle, put on the Christmas tunes, and get to it! I can’t wait.

What are your holiday traditions? I always love to learn what other families and people do. One of my students said for Thanksgiving, they always have an annual party on Friday afternoon and everyone brings their Thanksgiving leftovers to share. What a cool idea!

Before we get super caught up in the next few weeks, I wanted to say thank you to all of you guys who read my blog regularly! Several of you have stopped and told me in person, left a comment here or there, or written me to let me know you’ve enjoyed a particular post. It means the world to me and I appreciate it more than you know! This has always just been a hobby and a happy place for me to be creative and hopefully spread some cheer. That’s what life is all about! So, thank you. Enjoy the holiday season and hold those you love close; we never know how much time we have. Focus on what’s important, treat yoself with some yummy holiday food without judgment, and enjoy each new day as it comes.

 

Valentine’s Day


My three furry valentines

I’m always interested to learn how people celebrate holidays. I love any chance to celebrate and be festive, but Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that either makes people starry-eyed or annoyed and angry. My high school students are quick to flash around their teddy bears, flowers, chocolates, but if they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, they are grumpy all day!

Andrew and I do celebrate Valentine’s Day, but we don’t do anything major. I love having something to look forward to, but I can’t justify spending big money on a holiday designed to, well, make money! Last year was our first Valentine’s Day together, and Andrew cooked dinner for me, something simple but really special in my opinion. We stayed in, rented a movie, wore soft clothes, and had the best time staying in with all the dogs. This year was similar; I was in charge of dinner, so I picked up Mexican from one of our favorite places down the road. I made a “Perfect Size” chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. We do cards and flowers/chocolate, but nothing too crazy.¬†We recently started watching¬†Friday Night Lights together, and I’m officially hooked, so we watched a few episodes of that. It was a perfect Tuesday night Valentine’s Day together! The dogs got some extra treats, too ūüôā

It really was the perfect little cake!

Even if you’re like my grumpy students when it comes to Valentine’s Day, remember that the real¬†idea should just be to share and appreciate love, and spread a little more of it around. We should be thankful for the love we have every day, but it’s nice to have a little extra day set aside just for that.

I hope everyone’s Valentine’s Day was LOVEly‚Ķsee what I did there?