2018 Gift Guide: Parents, Grandparents, and In-Laws

23 November 2018

Ah, some of the most difficult people to shop for… no extensive commentary because we’re headed for more family time, but I wanted to get these ideas your way while the sales are hot! More picks for your favorite parents, grandparents, and in-laws here!

Hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings!!

gift guide for grandparents

A. Floral pitcher | Adding this to my own wish list… would look so pretty with hydrangeas in the summer.
B. Photo calendar | Minted does it again! And you can get this for FREE when you save ten dates in their system?!
C. Market basket | My mom would use this for her yoga mat and water bottle or as a stylish farmer’s market tote!
D. Trekking poles | If your in-laws are big hikers like mine! Also on Amazon.
E. Moviepass | Watch 3 movies of their choice in theaters per month for $10!
F. PowerSheets | I know PowerSheets are more commonly thought of as being for 20- or 30-somethings, but I think they’re actually PERFECT for empty nesters.
G. Subscription to The Sill | This service is so neat – house plants delivered to your loved one’s doorstep every month, in beautiful pots!
H. Bell buoy bell | Have a lover of New England coastline in your family? These beauties will transport them back to the ocean with every chime.
I. USB wall charger | File this one under “things your parents didn’t know existed but will be really excited to discover.”
J. Floret puzzle | A 500-piece beauty from two of Erin’s iconic photos!
K. Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire | Would be such a fun coffee table book.
L. Butter keeper | People are evangelistic about these things. I think my parents would love one! Also this pretty marble version.
M. Tartan dessert plates | These would be an instant family classic.
N. NY Times crossword puzzle book | Pick the day of the week difficulty level – just make sure it’s edited by Will Shortz!
O. Tartan throw | Finally, a cozy blanket to bring holiday charm.

Now, back to my own Black Friday shopping! :)

Affiliate links are used in this post!

2018 Gift Guide: Sisters, Moms, and Best Friends

21 November 2018

Better late than never, am I right? :) Black Friday/Cyber Monday is upon us, so I’m making my list and checking it twice for all of the loved ones in my life. I’ll be sharing gift ideas in a few different categories this week and next in case you’re stuck on a certain someone! Up first: your best girls.

P.S. A note on prices: though everything here is under $100, I did include a range. In both sides of my family we’ve gone to a gift pick system, where the siblings draw names and there’s a $75 cap per person, and I figured some of you may have done the same! Or maybe you’re looking for something to add to your personal wish list for a generous parent to gift you :) I hope you find these ideas helpful!

gift guide for gals

A. Chambray notebook | A lot of my gifts tend to fall in the “upgraded essentials” category these days, including this one. Someone on my list is getting one of these this Christmas!
B. Dreamy joggers | Is it embarrassing that these are at the top of my personal wish list? No? Good.
C. Rose tinted lip balm | The stylish Lisa recommended this to me. Also on my wish list this year!
D. Flower studs | I’m seeing (and admiring!) these statement floral earrings everywhere, and I love this handmade (and inexpensive!) interpretation. (I also adore everything from this shop if you have a little more wiggle room in the budget!)
E. Bow gloves | These are on my wish list in the navy, but I think the red is such a fun splash of color, too.
F. Clipfolio | File this under “things she didn’t know she needed but now definitely does.” The perfect spot to keep it all together!
G. Super Tips marker set | I know this might seem like a strange gift, but if she does any sort of drawing, sketching, or doodling, these markers are SO fun to use and have the best colors!
H. Mixing bowl set | Eek! The pink sold out between gathering and posting, but I also love the jadeite.
I. Bow napkin rings | Literally stopped in my tracks when I saw these in Target… and then bought two sets for myself.
J. The best greeting card set | I know you’re probably sick of hearing about these, but they are SO beautiful and SUCH a good deal – couldn’t not include them! :)
K. Gold earrings | I love that these are a more modern take on the bow shape. you could dress them up or down!
L. See the good tee | A message she’d be happy to wear.
M. Delicate necklace | I found so many pieces to love on this site – aside from the necklace above, I loved these earrings and this necklace, too. An amazing kind-hearted company to support!
N. Custom keyring | The Mama Bear example shown above is perfect, but you can also commission a custom phrase for a super-sweet gift!
O. Monogrammed pouch | A pretty spot to hold her essentials in a larger tote bag.

Any other great gift ideas to share? Please do — I know readers would love to hear!!

P.S. Last year’s gift guide for gals, and the 2016 guide – lots of great picks in both I still stand by! :)

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What to wear for large group family photos

19 November 2018

Do y’all still take yearly photos with your extended family? We do, and we joke that the real purpose of our annual Maine vacation is so that my Mom can get her Christmas card photo with everyone present and accounted for – ha! Joking aside, we all love looking back at how our family composition has changed over the years, and acquiesce to the yearly photo session with minimal grumbling.

As my family’s resident “creative person,” I always get tasked with deciding on the year’s outfit color scheme. Outfitting a ten-plus person grouping, with kids, babies, adults, and grandparents in the mix (all with varying preferences and styles) and is not for the faint of heart. Since we’re in the thick of preparing for our family photo right now, I thought I’d share a few of the tips I’ve gathered over the years — both for outfitting, and for the photo session itself!

colorful family photos

1. Think ahead. Depending on how often your family gathers together, you might have to take a photo months ahead of Christmas if the goal is to have a photo ready for a holiday card. My family is scattered, but one of the most reliable times we’re all together is in the summer, so that’s usually when we take our photo. (This year is an exception!)

2. Make an outfit plan. For our family, the goal is to look casually — not cheese-ily — coordinated. We don’t want to look like we’re trying too hard :) With a big group, it’s important to have a wide-enough palette that you’re not all stuck in one of two colors. A mix of textures and patterns can also go a long way toward a look with depth, as well as different shades within your palette. The goal isn’t to match perfectly, but just to look like you belong together! (That goes for the level of formality and the seasonality, too!)

large group family photos

I usually pull two color palette options (using inspiration photos like these) and then ask my mom and sisters which they’d prefer. Once we’ve chosen our palette, everyone is responsible for selecting their family’s outfits. Sometimes I start a Google Doc to track what everyone is wearing; other times we just bring several options and make final decisions the day of.

jewel tone family photos

3. Choose a location. My MOST IMPORTANT location criteria isn’t aesthetic at all: it’s to choose one that’s inconspicuous! The last thing you want while wrangling multiple generations is to feel rushed or awkward, so pick a spot where there will be few passersby and you can take as much time as you need (or pause to regroup as necessary). To let your faces shine, a simple backdrop is best – a colored wall, porch steps, a fence, stone wall, evergreen hedge, etc. Avoid distracting colors, signage, and clutter as much as possible.

If at all possible, take your photo outdoors – it will be WAY easier to get a well-lit, professional-looking result, even if you’re just using an iPhone.

4. Pose. If you have an especially large group, it can be helpful to incorporate levels, like a chair, bench, rock, or fence for some people to sit on. From there, have fun! Look at each other and then back at the camera, throw in some fake laughter (because it always results in real laughter!), and squeeze in close enough to each other that it feels awkward :)

5. Take the picture. Some folks use a tripod and remote clicker set up, which sounds awesome but isn’t something I have experience with. We usually use the newest iPhone in the group (ha!), either with the timer function or in the capable hands of a cousin or friend (remember, we’re usually taking our photos on vacation in Maine). Enlisting a photographer is especially helpful when you have young kiddos in the group, as the likelihood of smiles goes up!

Of course, working with a professional photographer is the ultimate, and well worth the splurge if you can swing it! Many of my favorite photographers hold “mini sessions” in the early fall, which are shorter sessions at a lower price point and PERFECT for capturing a large group.

And now, a few of our family’s photos from years past…

And a favorite outtake :)

Any tips you’d add? Do y’all still take yearly photos with your siblings and parents?

Photo credits: Bethany Wilson, Photography by Jess, unknown, Jubilee Family Photography, Jubilee Family Photography, Heather Telford Photography, Ravenberg Photography

Two house guest hacks

12 November 2018

‘Tis the season for house guests, friends! We just waved goodbye to my Mom, John’s parents are here now, and my parents and sister’s family will be here before the end of the year! We’re no stranger to hosting visitors (living 10 hours away from your family will do that to you), but for years, our visits would often feel logistically scattered, despite what felt like extensive pre-planning on my part. I’d get frustrated and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong… until I did! :)

Turns out I was focusing so intently on our dinner plans for each night that I was completely neglecting the other two meals of the day. It sounds simple, but when I started making an intentional (but loosely-held) plan for breakfast and lunch each day, things seemed to go so much more smoothly!

Just in case you find yourself in the same boat, I thought I’d share our go-to for both meals, courtesy of my sisters-in-law…

Sally’s Baking Addiction

For breakfast, our secret is frozen chocolate croissants from Trader Joe’s, introduced to us by Natalie earlier this year. They rise on the counter overnight, which makes them seem extra-legit, and they are so flaky and delicious! Pair with chopped fruit and/or scrambled eggs and you’ve got a great start to the day that feels special but couldn’t be easier.

For lunch, we’ll make gourmet grilled cheese (in our griddler – so easy!). Here, the game changer is using a rosemary loaf from Whole Foods, which takes the spread from ho-hum to unforgettable. Marget gets the gold star for bringing this combo to my attention, and for pairing the sandwiches with boxed soup for the perfect quick lunch!

I would love to hear: what do you usually serve guests for breakfast or lunch? A spread of bagels from our local favorite or big pot of soup, like this or this, is another go-to for us. Let’s get the ideas flowing and help each other out this holiday season! :)

P.S. More house guest tips.