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a few fun ideas for holiday hostess gifts

December 8th, 2014 · No Comments

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The holiday season means nonstop entertaining, every night and weekend.  The next few weeks pack a year of party-planning into a quick month, and they’re a wonderful time to catch up with your friends and family, and generally to savor the part of the year that brings out the social butterfly in all of us.

And with all those soirees, sometimes a present for your host or hostess isn’t the first thing on your mind.  We’d all like to give the “perfect” holiday gift — something sweet but not sentimental, thoughtful but not overboard. 

But do you know what 90% of guests show up with?  A bottle of wine. 

And, ok, sure.  There’s nothing wrong with a bottle of wine.  Year round, it’s a great hostess present: it’s something you know the host needs, and it’s hard to get it wrong.  A bottle of wine is a solid effort. 

Because, here’s the thing: especially during the holidays, it’s nice to spruce up your hostess gifts a little!  And it doesn’t take much more effort to show up with something kind of fun.  Something that isn’t what every other guest is bringing.  Something that acknowledges the effort that your host put into throwing a party during the craziest season of the year, and also celebrates their place in your life. 

My favorite pick?  A limited edition bottle of Kahlúa Peppermint Mocha.  This super delicious flavor only comes around once a year, so it’s the perfect festive holiday gift to bring along.  And for other fun holiday gifts, here are a few outside-the-box ideas for your favorite hostesses this season:

Flowers: There’s something so lovely about picking up a bouquet of flowers for your hostess.  Fresh flowers are the ultimate in little luxuries, and they’re the perfect gift for nearly anyone.  Especially around the holidays, think about incorporating winter accents like pine branches, holly greens, and juniper branches into your arrangements. 

Homemade Goodies: Homemade items take a little bit more work and prep time.  But is there anything more lovely than showing up at a party bearing something extra-special that you’ve worked hard on?  A simple recipe like Kahlúa sea salt brownies in a holiday tin shows that you put both time and thought into a perfect hostess gift.  (Quick tip: homemade items are better when the party is for fewer than a dozen people — no one expects you to play part-time caterer for their 50-person cocktail party!)

Candles: I love giving candles as a hostess gift.  They’re a little bit fancy and a little special, but they’re not perishable.  And they’re inevitably brought out on some special occasion — a romantic dinner or an extra-special night, and your guests will think of you again when they pull them out! 

A Monogrammed or Personalized Gift: There’s something so special about a personalized present.  Whether it’s monogrammed coffee mugs or cocktail napkins, a personalized hostess gift is one of the sweetest, most thoughtful things you can bring.  Want to take it up a notch?  Design a bottle of Kahlúa with your own custom label on YourGiftLabel.com and blow their minds!

For more entertaining ideas this holiday season, head over to KahluaHoliday.com for tips, recipes, and party-planning advice!  And remember: Enjoy the party and sip responsibly.  At holiday parties and all year round, don’t overindulge and never drink and drive!

Disclosure: I have been compensated for this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Tags: sponsored

At-home hair dyes… Yay or Nay?

December 3rd, 2014 · 5 Comments

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Truthfully, I have a very love-hate relationship with dying my hair.  On one hand, I love my blonde color and think that blonde hair fits my personality. 

But, oh my gosh… the ups and downs of maintaining that color sometimes make me crazy.

I’ve had a back-and-forth relationship with dying my hair since midway through college, when I discovered the hair dye aisle of CVS and didn’t look back for about two years.  In those two years, my hair went from purple-black to bright orange, depending on the month.

And if you’re currently thinking, “Hmm, this story sounds fishy.  ‘Purple-black’ and ‘bright orange’ don’t actually sound like particularly attractive hair colors.”

Well, you would be right.  They were not.

But, hey, how was I supposed to know?  I’d grab a kit off she shelf, pay for it, and go home and slather it on my entire head, like it was a bottle of shampoo — and, not surprising, when I’d rinse the color out, my hair would be flat and one-dimensional.

Eventually, I got sick of it: my hair never quite looked right, so I dyed my hair back to what I best remembered as my natural color and left it alone for a while, until all the dyed parts eventually naturally grew out.

And for about two more years, I was back to my natural brunette.  No at-home color kits, no trips to the salon.

And then… I started itching to dye again. 

I started thinking… about going blonde.

And you see that photo above?

That photo, right there, is my first shot as a blonde on Sugarlaws.

Looks pretty good, right?  See, this time, I had my hair color done by a professional.  And, not surprisingly, it made a huge difference.  The shade of blonde in the photo above was completely different from anything I’d had before — natural and full of depth and tone. 

And now, apparently, I know why. 

The answer is below (that’s me, the first time I highlighted my hair):

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See, in that picture, you can see clearly that the colorist is using a different treatment for the roots and the lengths of my hair, which is how salons color hair.  But those at-home kits?  They just use a single treatment for your whole head, which is why your color ends up flat and wig-like. 

It makes sense, right?  Your roots (which are new, undyed hair) take in color completely differently from the lengths of your hair, which have probably been colored dozens of times.  So when you’re coloring your hair, you have to treat them differently.

But one thing I don’t love about salon-colored hair?  It’s pricey and time-consuming.  It can’t be done at 9pm when the baby is finally asleep, which is pretty much my only free time these days.  On the other hand, when I think about that head of orange hair from my college days, I’m still nervous to try at-home kits again. 

So that’s where I am now: I’d like to try an at-home kit, but I’m nervous about the results.  I wish I could get salon techniques at home, particularly being able to treat the roots and lengths separately, when I color my hair at home.

I want to hear from you guys: Do you color your hair yourself, or do it at the salon?  Any at-home coloring tips for me? 

Tags: hair · sponsored

Announcing the Fisher-Price™ Holiday Traditions Sweepstakes!

November 26th, 2014 · No Comments

FP 7 y.Final

In just a few days, Chad, Bear and I will be celebrating our first Thanksgiving as a family.  And, in a lot of ways, it’s going to be different from any Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.  I love having holidays with my extended family (both Chad’s and my own), but this year, it’s going to be just us and the baby.  For Christmas, we’ll have more than a dozen members of our family on both sides, but for this Thanksgiving, we’re on our own. 

Which, in some ways, is really exciting.  As we were thinking about this holiday, I realized that it was a time for Chad and me to create our own new traditions, the ones that will be part of our family’s memories for years to come.

Since Bear is just a baby, his needs are pretty simple this year: some snuggles, a long nap, and a few bites of sweet potatoes (they’re his favorite food)!  And yet, I want to spend this holiday creating traditions that will be with us for years to come — even if he doesn’t understand them this year, he will later on, and I’m excited for these moments to become part of the fabric of his childhood.  The traditions he’ll pass down to his own children someday.

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So, here’s what I’m planning to do:

We’ll be sitting down to a big turkey dinner, cornbread stuffing, and pumpkin pie.  Chad will watch football and I’ll catch the Macy’s Day Parade.  All our family’s old traditions will be alive and strong. 

But we’re also going to create our own.

I’ve always loved the idea of volunteering at a soup kitchen or doing a “Turkey Trot” to raise money for charity, but I’ve never done it.  But this year, as we’re planning our first holiday traditions, it’s one that I would love to incorporate into our son’s Thanksgiving memories.  So, this year, Chad, Bear and I will be participating in a 5k walk to benefit a world hunger relief organization.  I’m thrilled to be teaching our son about helping others; Chad is nervous that he is too out of shape to walk 3.1 miles.  Bear will probably sleep in the stroller the whole time.

So basically? Good times all around.

In addition, I’m planning to take special moments out of the day to teach our son about the holiday.  This year, he’s little enough that teaching will probably be limited to turkey sounds and a story or two.  But next year, and the year after, I’d like to take a moment out of the day to reflect on what Thanksgiving is all about: people from different cultures coming together, and treating each other peacefully with kindness and respect.  This is such an important to pass on to your children, and holiday traditions provide a great way to make it meaningful for them.

Traditions come in so many shapes and sizes — there’s no reason to limit yourself to turkey and pie and call it a day.  Those “untraditional” traditions are special, too, and they create wonderful, lasting memories for your family.

And as you’re creating your own holiday traditions, Fisher Price wants to hear your family’s story.  Over on Instagram, they’re announcing the Fisher-Price™ Holiday Traditions Sweepstakes!  To enter, follow @Fisher-Price on Instagram, and then post an original photo that captures your favorite “Holiday Tradition” with the hashtag #FPTraditionsSweeps.  The sweeps runs from November 24 to December 21st, so there’s lots of time to capture your favorite holiday moments!  (See the official rules here: http://www.fisher-price.com/en_us/Sweeps/holidaytraditions_rules.html)

So whether it’s a shot of your early-morning drive to grandma’s house, your perfectly roasted turkey, or your kiddos digging into their mashed potatoes, show us how you celebrate.  I can’t wait to see them!

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Tags: sponsored