Holiday Gift Giving for Normal People

Sorry for the absence! I’ve been a little…distracted…but I’m back and thanks to some inspiration from one of my fave pals and most loyal followers, Damiana Smith, I give you today’s post, Holiday Gift Giving for Normal People. I realize “normal” is a bit subjective, but I’m thinking of it in terms of not on Gwyneth Paltrow’s aspirational, out of touch, Goop gift giving list. Generally, these are gifts under $300.

Hard to believe, but the first night of Hanukkah is next week, on Thanksgiving! And Christmas is a mere four weeks away. It’s time to start thinking about who’s getting what and I hope my little list helps a bit! And please, please do me the favor of checking for coupons, there will be so many with Black Friday and holiday sales! Save yourself a little bit ‘o cash and use it towards yourself!

Nespresso Citiz
Nespresso Citiz

Nespresso Citiz Espresso Maker ($187) – All Nespresso machines are 25% off on both Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel  right now, a great time to buy. The Citiz model I purchased doesn’t come with a milk frother, this is straight Espresso/Americano, but for me, it’s perfect as I like black coffee. There are several models out there with frothers if you’re into Lattes/Cappuccino. I am very particular about my coffee and think Nespresso pods taste pretty darn fantastic! I get the purple Arpeggio pods, which are a 9 out of 10 intensity. I order the pods from Nespresso directly at $.65/pod, but they come in one day, super easy. Making a cup of coffee in one minute is just preferable to brewing a pot, especially when it tastes this good. Now that I have one, I can’t imagine not!

Bose SoundLink Speaker
Bose Mini SoundLink

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker ($199) – I reeeeeeeally want one of these guys, so take note Mom & Dad! This little bad boy goes wherever you do, no plugs, great sound, connects seamlessly via Bluetooth, and the battery plays up to 7 hours. It has 5 star reviews on Amazon. No brainer purchase for a dude or lady.

Juliet Roger Jewelry ($60 – $150) I stumbled upon local Queen Anne jewelry designer Juliet Roger about 5 years ago at a holiday bazaar. Her stuff is just gorgeous and very reasonably priced! I have two pairs of her earrings, both of the styles pictured, and I love them. And I don’t have one of her cocktail rings, but would like to! I have bought the earrings as gifts for friends/family and they’ve been a hit. Total winner.

Folle de Joie Parfum
Folle de Joie

Folle de Joie Perfume ($95)Alright, I’m giving away one of my secrets here, but this is my newest scent and I am obsessed. I have been wearing various Jo Malone scents for awhile now, so this was a really great change of pace with the layers. “The scent opens with a burst of freshness from an intimate blend of calming sweet citrus mixed and a light woodsy floral, giving way to playful hints of rich cognac. Folle De Joie’s mid notes of jasmine and rose add a feeling of summer’s carefree essence while exotic warm base notes of spicy and rich wood and leather nuances broaden the seductive scent.” Yum.

Nordstrom cashmere wrap
Nordstrom Cashmere Wrap

Nordstrom Woven Cashmere Wrap ($176) –  After losing the black cashmere pashmina my mom gave me years ago (yes, I said pashmina, does anyone have those anymore or have they just been rebranded as “wraps” now?), I purchased this in black at the Nordstrom Half Yearly sale. This one is a little weightier than a typical scarf, but I love that. It’s soft, warm, delicious, and big enough that you can also use it as a wrap if you’re wearing a dress.

Amazon Prime Subscription
Amazon Prime Subscription – 1 Year

Amazon Prime 1 Year Subscription ($79)FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items, no minimum order size, unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime Instant Video, a Kindle book to borrow for free each month from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Boom. Done.

Kindle Fire HDX
Kindle Fire HDX

Kindle Fire HDX 16GB with 4G ($329)If we’re talking about Amazon Prime, we might as well talk about a pretty sweet little gadget, the Kindle Fire HDX. I have a Kindle Fire from last year, mine is only Wifi, I wish it was 4G, but I love it. I use it for reading, watching movies on airplanes, and taking to dinner for Oliver’s entertainment. Great purchase, but the one catch is you have to buy/rent your movies on Amazon, either streaming through Prime or downloading via their marketplace.

Netflix GIft Subscription
Netflix GIft Subscription

Netflix 1 Year Streaming Subscription ($95) House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, thousands of other movies and TV shows (I am currently bingeing on Parenthood). Plus the added benefit of lots of great kids shows so you can keep them quiet while you make dinner or actually enjoy a glass of wine. I think $95 is actually ridiculously low for what you get. My Netflix obsession was documented in one of my first posts here.

Frye Toiletry Kit
Frye Leather Travel Kit

Frye  Logan Leather Travel Kit ($178)Spruce up your guy’s travel sitch. This is a gift he would probably never buy himself, but totally enjoy! There are lots of choices out there in various price ranges if you don’t want to spend this much.

Le Creuset Braiser
Le Creuset Braiser

Le Creuset Braiser ($290 for 5-Qt) On sale right now at Williams Sonoma, this is probably my favorite pan, rivaled by my Le Creuset Dutch Oven. Anyone who loves to cook will appreciate this! It is heavy, but I use to make sauces galore, so easy to clean! This is a staple.

Happy Shopping and I think I might do another post about stocking stuffers too, so please send any ideas!

5 Good Reads

Ding, ding, ding. Round two of 5 Good Reads is here! As you all know, I certainly enjoy my TV time, but when I go on vacation, the TV is off and my Kindle is on. I turn into a readaholic, devouring 3 or 4 books in a week and I love that feeling where you can’t wait to pick it back up when you have to put it down! I am also trying to be better about calling it quits on a book that I am not enjoying, which I had to do with one of my selections from the Mexico trip, Mary Coin, although very well reviewed by critics, not my bag.

1. The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman – this is on the of the best books I have read in a long, long time. Katie Peterson, thank you for the recommendation! The writing is fantastic, the story hooks you immediately, I couldn’t put it down and you will cry. My mom read it right after I did and loved it as well. I’m not going to bother summarizing the plot, just go read it, it’s that good. But if you insist, the full description at Amazon here.

2. Doctor Sleep – Stephen King – I need to preface by saying I have been reading Stephen King since middle school and I am a huge fan. I loved this book and I totally dig Stephen King as a storyteller. This is his follow up to The Shining, 36 years later, telling the story of adult Danny Torrance, who is now a “flawed middle-aged man with a tragic past — his special gift, ‘shining,’ dulled with age and alcohol. He’s ‘Doctor Sleep’ now, a hospice worker who eases the end of patients’ lives. He also happens to be the only one who can help a little girl with her own special gift. This is not simply The Shining II. Not only does this story stand on its own, it manages to magnify the supernatural quality that first drew us to young Danny, expanding its mystery and its intensity in a way that might even reach beyond this book into the rest of the King-iverse… and beyond.” Full description at Amazon here.

3. 11/22/63 – Stephen King – OK, since we are on the subject of Stephen King, I have to include one of my favorite reads of 2012. This book was just awesome! The gist of this book is “On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.” I mean, who isn’t fascinated by Kennedy’s assassination? I cannot say enough good things about this guy, 4.5 stars on Amazon with 5,000+ reviews. Full description at Amazon here.

4. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes – Thank you for the rec Joanna Beals! This is a sweet love story, a total tearjerker, but not sappy or cookie cutter like a Nicholas Sparks novel. I read it in 24 hours. “A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?” Full description at Amazon here.

5. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt – My current read and super enjoyable. A tale of an orphan’s survival, “The story begins with an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum that kills narrator Theo Decker’s beloved mother and results in his unlikely possession of a Dutch masterwork called The Goldfinch. Shootouts, gangsters, pillowcases, storage lockers, and the black market for art all play parts in the ensuing life of the painting in Theo’s care.” I am about halfway through, but it is competing with my DVR for attention right now, so it might take me a bit to finish. Full  description at Amazon here.

I love getting referrals on books you’ve loved, so please keep ’em coming!! Happy reading and here is the link to the last 5 good reads.

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5 Good Reads

It may come as a huge surprise since I love me some TV, but I also love to read. When I’m on vacation, I don’t watch TV and usually cruise through about 3 books.  Sometimes this mania carries back over into my real life and I get into reading-before-bed mode.  Choosing which books to read is no small undertaking. There is nothing worse than a mediocre book and I’m not a quitter, so I always (skim) finish.

I have a Kindle Fire HD, which is awesome for reading (and watching movies), but not for browsing new books. Scrolling through pages and pages (without even being able to see the description) does not work for me. I like to go explore Amazon on my computer, where I can see recommendations based on the books I like, and more importantly, ratings and reviews. I try to stick to 4+ star books, because why waste my time?


  1. The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult  – this is not your typical Jodi Picoult, I haven’t read anything by her in a few years and this is a complete departure from her other books. The subject matter is not light, it the Holocaust and it is gritty, but a “well-researched and thought-provoking plot”.  The characters are well-written and the book weaves together three stories to make for a super satisfying read.
  2. Life After Life – Kate Atkinson – I read this right after “The Storyteller” and was already in the WWII mindset, so appreciated that this book took a different stab at this awful time, asking the question “What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?” I love Kate Atkinson and have been a fan of her other books, so when the description says “Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.” I am SOLD.
  3. The Silent Wife – A.S.A Harrison –  You know the husband dies in the first few pages, you know the wife kills him, you are just dying to know how it all goes down.
  4. And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini – “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns“, also by Hosseini, are two of the my favorite all time books. Poignant, I think I cried in both, original stories, incredible depth of characters. Now, he “has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.” This is my current read, I invested and loving it.
  5. East of Eden – John Steinbeck – I have to slip a classic in here. Considered “the masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years”, this is a long one (to me, that’s a bonus, I hate when a good read ends!!), but such a wonderful work, and you’ll get some cred dropping this one at a dinner party and look real scholarly. Written in 1952, this story is about a dysfunctional family, really dysfunctional, but you’ll love it.