holiday gift guide

It’s that time of year, folks. The time when your wife/mom/girlfriend/grandma says, “I don’t want anything! I have everything I need right here.” And then she gives you a hug and a kiss while in your mind you’re silently calling “BULLSH#$”! But you don’t want to say it because what she really wants is for you to surprise her with the perfect gift without her telling you exactly what she wants. Right?

Not that I do this. No, not at all. I don’t expect my husband to be a mind reader…ever.

So I’m here to give you a few little tips. Everything on this list I own and love–things that I use everyday that are both useful, pretty and practical. These are gifts you can get in both the UK and the US, whether online or in a shop. They’re sure to please every lady on your list who expects you to use Jedi-mind-force in order to conjure up the perfect holiday gift.

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COS Cashmere Hat, $49

I’ve owned this hat for about a year now, and not only does it look exactly the same as when I bought it (hello, wool caps that pill in about 3 minutes flat), it’s light and small enough to toss in my bag for when that chilly wind picks up. It’s also just warm enough, but not overly hot, and super stylish–simply the perfect hat. Plus, it’s cashmere. Cashmere. Meaning the softest, most luxurious knit you can buy. It comes in a variety of colors but I love this soft grey shade–it matches all of my jackets.

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Rebecca Minkoff Bowery Tote, $165 

I have a serious handbag addiction. Since I found this beauty, though, I haven’t bought another in months (some kind of record for me). We ladies are always searching for the perfect black handbag, one that’s chic enough for nights out but practical enough to hold all of our everyday crap. Last night at a Christmas fair this tote held all of my essentials plus my daughter’s coat, a present, water bottle, two pairs of gloves and my hat (above). It looks great with everything and the leather is super plush but durable. Definitely a keeper.

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Laura Mercier Candleglow Luminizing Palette, $58 

I’m nearly through this perfect palette, full of subtly shimmery shades that keep my face glowing all year long. It contains four different eye shadows, one blush and one bronzer, plus a handy little card that tells you how to apply them for day or night. Once I’ve polished off the last of it I’m bound to get another.

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S’well Water Bottle, $25-$45 

To say that this bottle has changed my life is an overstatement. But it has gotten me to drink more water, which makes me feel better. The insulated design keeps cold drinks cold for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12. Plus they come in all sorts of pretty designs from this metallic to crocodile prints to colorful arty designs to plain old black. (If you really love her fill it with some hot mulled wine for all that Christmas caroling around the neighborhood.)

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Orla Kiely Purse Kit Set, $16.99 

I purchased this Orla Kiely set in a (now discontinued) print just before we moved to London, along with a few matching makeup and toiletry bags. Orla Kiely anything is pretty pricey here in the UK (though you can find her whole line at most John Lewis stores), so I love her affordable line from Target in the US. They’re honestly one of the most handy and versatile items that I own and I use them for absolutely everything: my daily meds in one, bandaids and first-aid in another, lipstick, a small brush and mints in a third. For travel I’ll switch the contents out to passports, sunscreen, snacks, art supplies–whatever. They’re so easy to wipe clean and they contain spills if you use them for lotion or shampoo. They also make switching purses so easy–just toss in and go.

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Kate Spade phone case, $39.99 

If a new phone isn’t in your budget, get her the next best thing: this gorgeous Kate Spade iPhone case. My phone is ancient and it makes it feel fancy and new again. I love the sleek striped design and, since I tend to drop my phone on concrete at least once a day, I can testify that it is totally protective.

Now, ladies, share this post with your significant [b]other and know that what’s under the tree will be fab, beautiful and something you’ll use day after day.

Cheers, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and all the rest. Enjoy the season…xx Jenny

a holly jolly (quizzical) christmas

It’s the morning of Christmas Eve and I’m having a teeny crisis of conscience. The presents are all wrapped, the family is here and Bing Crosby is cued up on the stereo. But I’m feeling a little bah humbug and confused about these traditions we wander through each December. Somehow an old Greek gift-giving saint and the birth of Jesus Christ have mashed up into a holiday where credit cards are king, we tell elaborate lies to children, and family drama causes us to hit the eggnog a little too hard. How did this happen? Not a clue. But the Christmas we celebrate in 2010 likely bears so little resemblance to the days of Sinterklaas that it doesn’t really matter anymore. So what does matter? What has Christmas come to symbolize today? And how do you interpret the meaning of a religious holiday when you’re not a person of faith?

I grew up in a moderately religious family: Grandma a devout Catholic, aunts and uncles of various (or no) faiths, a Christian mother and a who-knows father. We were drug to church until our teens, forced through confirmation classes (I often skipped mine to visit the curious smoke shops that dotted the surrounding University district—sorry Ma), and then given a choice: join the church, or be free from our Sunday obligations. You can guess what my brother and I chose.

Since I left faith by the wayside, I wish I could say that the meaning of Christmas has changed for me. But I don’t think I ever really learned its significance in the first place. Coming from a Swedish family, we celebrated Christmas the traditional way with a big pow-wow on Christmas Eve. I’m sure some took it devoutly, but growing up I don’t remember religion factoring into Christmas at all. We were given gifts (lots of them), ate a huge dinner and dessert (lots of it), sidestepped family dramas (lots of them), and were generally spoiled by a holiday we didn’t know or care to know the meaning of. It was bliss. Toy-filled, fat and happy bliss.

Not that I believe there’s anything wrong with the way I grew up celebrating the holiday. I have the fondest memories of those two days in December, and I would like my daughter to have the same. So this Christmas, seeing as how she is now old enough to understand, I chose to induct Lucy into the Christmas myth. She posed for a picture with Santa, will leave cookies out for him this evening, and will tear open gifts from him (and us) in the morning. Despite all of my misgivings about celebrating something I can’t quite grasp the meaning of, I still enjoy this time of year immensely. It can be downright magical for children. For adults, it’s a great time to catch up with family and friends. For cooks, it’s a fabulous excuse to whip up your naughtiest treats.

A part of me wants to just stop questioning and enjoy the damn holidays already. But when my daughter (and child #2, soon to come) reaches the age where she wonders why Christmas happens—who exactly Santa Claus is, why we bring a tree inside the house, why Aunt Millie gets so sloshed on mead—I won’t know what to say. I think any excuse to celebrate is a good one. But with a tradition as huge and widespread as Christmas, I can’t help but ask myself: why? How did it morph into what it is today? How do we let our kids indulge and enjoy without getting spoiled? And when your personal meaning of Christmas is not about God or Jesus or an old Greek saint, what is the meaning? When you’re not religious, how do you explain the holiday that just “is”?

I suppose that the meaning of Christmas lies in whatever traditions you practice. For our family, that meaning lies in good company, great food, and thoughtful gifts to each other and to charities. There may not be any deep-seated beliefs or practices underlying our traditions, but for now I have to just be okay with that. I’ll still enjoy decorating every cookie, stuffing every stocking and wrapping every gift. I’ll enjoy Christmas for what it is: a fabulous excuse to eat, drink and be merry. When Lucy asks me why we celebrate Christmas, I have not a clue what I’ll say. I suppose I could reply, “because it’s tradition.” And that would be the truth.

What are your Christmas traditions? And what does the holiday mean to you? Chime in below, and have a very happy holiday, however you celebrate the season.

Xoxo

-RDG

loving: best baby gifts

We’ve all got someone with a little tyke in our lives. And unless you’re a parent, gifting for little ones can often be daunting.

You don’t want to get something age-innapropriate (Leggos for a toddler), destructive (toy hammers or whiffle ball bats), annoying for parents (a dolly that pees, spits up and says “Dada” a million times a day), or boring (socks).

So what to get for those little ones that will please parents and baby? I’ve got some ideas for ya.

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A Prince Lionheart Wheely-Bug, perhaps? This is pretty much the coolest walking/rolling/riding toy ever. The stripey part has a nice padded seat, the little antennae go boing, and the wheels rotate in any direction. Plus, it’s low enough to the ground that if the little guy (or gal) falls, it won’t be anything worth crying over.

The best part? It’s really flippin cute. Plus, it comes in two sizes (small and large) and other animal forms: a mouse, ladybug, and cow. This thing is well-made too. Even the Duggar’s 19 kids would be no match for this little bug.

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Music is always a toss-up for little ones. Either it’s impossible for adults to listen to without having some kind of seizure, or it’s just plain boring. But Caspar Babypant‘s Here I Am is an album for kids and grownups alike. Imagine if Ben Gibbard, Jack Johnson and Guster got together and made a musical love child (no pun intended. Okay, maybe a tiny pun intended). That is the loveliness that is Mr. Babypants. Kids of all ages will groove to these cute and catchy tunes, and their parents will not want to throw the disc out the car window after repeated listening.

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Alright. This one is really more for parents than for kiddos. But the little lovelies will be nice and cuddly warm in this gorgeous sleep sack by Halo. Lucy practically lives in these things year-round. The fabric is super-soft, the zipper is easy to use, and you can wash the dang thing over and over again and it still looks brand new. This is sure to please any parent, and keep babes big and small warm and happy.

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Speaking of warm…these beauties will keep the child in your life nice and toasty, even on the coldest of winter days. Smartwool makes this cute cap and mitten set for kids of all sizes. The knit is super soft, just like their socks (and if you haven’t tried Smartwool socks, by the way, you haven’t lived), so it’s comfy for baby’s head. The mittens (gasp!) stay on, even after much tugging, biting and pulling. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns too, so pick your favorite for little guys or little gals.

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I have to admit, some noisy toys are not at all bad. And Leap Frog’s My Pal Violet falls into that category. She’s cute, cuddly, and programmable. Yup. You can hook her up to your computer to customize what music she plays, what questions she asks your kid, and you can even have her say your kiddo’s name. I was at first terrified by the prospect of a stuffed toy saying Lucy’s name, but it’s actually quite cute. The music is soothing, and best of all, it has an off button (see bottom right paw), to prevent any creepy middle-of-the-night noisemaking.

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Okay. So maybe this one is a little more for the grown-ups as well. But who could resist this pretty orange feeding set by Boon? As any parent knows, anything that makes feeding easier or cleaner is a must-have. The genius bowl has a suction cup bottom and an extended lip to catch all of those spoon-to-mouth dribbles. The sippy cup is easy to grab, and the utensils are soft and flexible. Plus, it’s puuurdy. Unlike most feeding-related products.

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And finally, no child’s book collection would be complete without an edition of this classic. This time, The Velveteen Rabbit is back in a gorgeous new hardcover edition. It’s bee-youtiful, something that the little one will still cherish when they’re no longer little, and such a touching story.

Now get going. Spoil that little one rotten. Scoot! Or, you know, just click on the links.

Happy baby shopping!

-RDG

ways in which i am like santa claus

I’m gettin in to the christmas spirit.

Yesterday, with no extra caffeine, no superfluous alcohol consumption, and no one sticking a hot poker at my rear end, I decorated the house. Yep. You heard me correctly. After last week’s excess laziness and much complaining, I miraculously bucked up and took on the whole house in one fell swoop.

Mantle? Done. Big red bows on the front doors (have I told y’all I have two front doors? Odd choice, whoever build this place. Odd choice.)? Check. Lights strung over every eve? Well, no. Husband will do that this weekend. Christmas tree? Umm….not exactly. I got the stand though.

Okay, so I didn’t do the entire house. But during this barrage of decorating, I got to thinking. That is, when Lucy was not tugging at my jeans, eating Cheerios off the floor and biting the cat.

I got to thinking…I’m kind of like Santa Claus.

And here’s why:

1) My belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly. Moms, you know what I’m talkin about. Even after all the pregnancy weight is gone, it’s still…less than taut.

2) I carry around bags of goodies all the time. Sacks of dirty diapers to the trash. A big ‘ol purse full of Cheerios, toys, lip gloss and maybe my wallet and phone. They’re bound to be in there somewhere.

3) Red makes me look fat.

4) I grow white facial hair. Some would call it “blonde.” I call it “a $20 wax.”

5) I make naughty lists all the time. There’s usually only one name on it, though. And it rhymes with “goosey.”

6) I always wear fur. Courtesy of my cat.

Happy getting-ready-for-the-holiday-season!

-RDG