Monday, December 30, 2013

11 Smart Ways to Spend Your Christmas Money

Well the holidays have come and gone and more than a few of you probably got cash or gift cards.  At this time when I feel grateful for what I have received, and all the other blessings of the season, I hold off a bit on spending. I like to take stock of what I spent on last year and what I bought that I didn't really need. Frankly, I like to start a new year making good investments and use my little stockpile wisely, you know?

One of my resolutions in 2014, is to buy just what I need and less. That said, it's a good time to purchase as stores have things at their lowest prices, so after some reflection, you may want to spend your dollars now.

So what's worth your money? A few thoughts...

Pottery Barn Architectural Salvage Square Urn Lamp

1. Something for the home.  How often do we spend our money on clothing that gets ignored a month later, but hesitate on home purchases that last for years and longer? Two things that I spent money I stashed away on this year, were a lovely area rug and lamps from Pottery Barn. They made a huge difference in how my home felt and looked. They seriously upgraded everything. For the price of a coat, you can have a well-made lamp or rug. Think about how long you enjoy things you've bought for your home. Decades sometimes right?

2. On the subject of coats, a coat! This is the time to buy a quality coat that will last. I'm speaking of wool, and well-made. One of my Christmas gifts was this year was a J Crew classic coat that I had my eye on. I hadn't bought a wool coat in about 5 years and there is no mistaking what a good coat can do for your wardrobe. So worth it. I suggest a classic color like navy, camel, or grey. Sounds boring, but honestly you'll use it and love it a lot more. Neons seem fun now, but maybe not in 3 years, and a well made coat lasts at least that long.

I got this in navy and am so liking the simplicity of this coat and the zipper.  It goes with everything.

3. Talking of clothes, a quality sweater is a wonderful thing to get now. Have you noticed the quality of sweaters has gone down, even from some of the nicer stores? I have. So many are wool or cashmere blends with synthetics. You can't see the weave on these garments and they feel very soft when they are bought. Well, give them a few weeks and they look awful. I've been nostalgic for the sweaters of the past with quality weaves and durability. Some of these old sweaters are still stalwarts of my closet.

I've been shopping around and one of the companies that is still making some quality sweaters is Ralph Lauren of course. Yes, they are hovering around the $100+ mark, but right now, many are also on sale.. At Bloomingdales I found this one above. I'm loving the quality. Yes, it's part wool. Look for sweaters with the smallest amount of synthetics and a quality weave.

4. Something to upgrade your everyday living. Use your money on something you use daily. For me that was a new glass teapot. I'm loving it and for $21 and I wish I had bought one earlier. I used a chipped and cracked pot for 2 years now. Why? Don't know.  I love seeing when my tea is steeped, it does a better job, looks so much prettier and that makes me happy too. Other items that improve your everyday life could be a better coffee maker, a new travel coffee cup, a good toaster or even new sheets or cashmere socks. Anything you use each day is worth the pennies spent and raises your quality of life!

5. A handbag is another thing you use daily and also worth spending more on. I'm thinking a few hundred if you can. I honestly don't believe in $1,000 handbags. The quality of them is not 5xs worth another good bag. What are you paying for is status and label. Some people do care about that. I just don't. I want a pretty bag that is functional and lasts. A quality handbag and shoes will make a good outfit look great. Look for good seaming, fine interior and weight. Find something that is functional and that you can carry daily without pain. I personally love a bag with an outer pocket for keys and phone.

Two well designed bags I want right now are the zip-around Furla (top) and this Coach (on sale now and also in other colors), with the large exterior front pocket.

Kinfolk Table available at Amazon

6. A great cookbook. Now is the time to rethink your meal rotation. I know I'm dead bored of comfort food by this time and ready to eat lighter and healthier.  I recommend and am inspired by The Kinfolk Table which has simple recipes for gatherings. I love the photos and ideas for getting together.

Homemade with Love

 Another I have gotten so many ideas from is Homemade with Love. It is all about cooking from scratch. I like her writing and it's an enjoyable read. It's also now it's on sale.  It would be a beautiful addition to your cookbook library.

J Crew Liberty rash guard

7. Something fabulous for summer and spring that may stop you from finishing off the holiday chocolates.  I saw this as soon as I opened the J Crew catalog. Having such a gorgeous bathing suit and matching rash guard, which I would normally never splurge for as well, would be divine to own. And yes, it may, possibly could prevent me from consuming the rest of the marzipan pigs sitting in the frig right now with my name on them!

J Crew Moonglow silk tee
If you can't even think swimsuit yet, how about an adorable top? This silk T makes me excited for warm weather and vacations and all that comes with that...Silk always is worth the splurge and this isn't too pricey.

8. Something from an antique, furniture consignment, flea market or auction house. My goal this year is to seek out more eclectic and unique items for my home. As much as I love Pottery Barn and the like, I know my home's unique character is from the found and handed-down items that make it my own. It takes more time to get to these places, as well as time and patience to find pieces that speak to you. It's so worth the hunt though and can be fun finding cool stuff. Chances are the things you find will be items you love for a lifetime. It's much better use of your money than more clothes  in your closet, not to mention greener!

Nike Flyknits

9. Shoes. Go for something that you can use throughout the year. My better shoes have lasted years. With warmer weather coming a good pair of loafers may be a shoe you can wear the longest part of the year.  I also always love a cute pair Converse or sneakers and they will make everything look fresh if you don't already own a pair. How cute are these dotted Chucks from Nordys? Then there are so many new pretty Nike's out too now. I wouldn't mind wearing these pink knit ones all day.

Pear from A Perfect Color Etsy Shop

10. A piece of original art. Check out Etsy for one of a kind pieces like this pear I love from the  APerfect Color Shop. Wouldn't this be a great focus piece for a kitchen gallery wall? Art is fun to collect and becomes a family heirloom over time as well as an investment. This is also a good time to get that print from your travels framed or have a favorite vacation photograph enlarged. It's the uniquely yours items that are worth spending the time and money to get preserved and displayed. Don't let them languish in a closet!

11. Your favorite charity. We all have our personal causes and concerns, but how often do we send some of our own cash to a favorite cause? Personally, two of my favorites are the Natural Resources Defense Council, which works to protect wildlife and the environment and Oxfam, which works all over the world the prevent poverty and injustice. If we all gave just a portion of our spending money, say just $25 or $50, to a charity or foundation we believe in, we could all make a difference

I hope this gives you a few out of the box ideas for your holiday cash wisely. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you consider a worth spending on. Do you plan to save or spend this year? I think a lot of us are saving and being more wise with our dollars.

Wishing you all a fun and safe New Year!

You've filled my year with your wonderful notes and visits and I am most grateful and appreciative!

See you in 2014 friends!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas in Paris - Birthday Lunch at Leasa's

My tennis friends have remained close and we use each other's birthdays as an excuse to get together through the year. Last week it was to celebrate our friend Catrin's birthday and our dear pal Leasa kindly hosted us for lunch at her home. Getting together at someone's home is just such a treat and really a lot more relaxed than the restaurant thing I think.

I was looking forward to seeing her house, as it was decorated with the theme, "Christmas in Paris."

It did not disappoint!

Leasa you may remember from my post here about her wonderful Easter lunch she hosted for us earlier this year.

There was so much pretty, I didn't know where to look first.

I love Leasa's home and especially her dining room.

 Catrin, (in the stripes) is Swedish and you may also remember her lovely Swedish-California Christmas home style from this post.

Leasa, here in her kitchen, is one of those who is just an effortless entertainer. You automatically feel at home at her house and she serves simple, but delicious food. This time we had quiches, salads and some wonderful desserts bought for Catrin.

She has given every spot in her house a little holiday flair.. She changes up her pedestal piece all the time. I love her use of silver- old and new, candles, pine comes and poinsettias here.

George, her Springer Spaniel keeps watch over the main room.

Leasa has two darling young girls. We spied the Elf on the Shelf getting in some trouble with the Smurfs. :)

The table was amazing!

Each of us received a sparkly Eiffel Tower ornament on our place setting to take home!

Leasa used a mix of her grandmother's  flowered china and some newer plates, crystal and etched glasses. The combination was lovely.

The layering of all the French inspired items, faux fur as snow, mercury glass, silver, feathers, vintage ornaments and a bit of pink made it fun and girly.

We spent a lot of time oooing and ahhhing over all the details!

She also decorated the small portals to the dining room.


How cute is this grouping on the buffet? Leasa's glass lamps are so lovely too and match her chandelier.


 She didn't forget to give her entry a little Parisian touch with pillows…

…And a feather wreath.

Even her landing to the stairs was festive.

I have to admit I have serious powder room envy! Love her Noel here and her bamboo shelf is to die for!

Okay one more detail I have to gush about is her butler's pantry. Such a brilliant idea between the kitchen and the dining room. Who couldn't use that? Leas's holds a wine cooler, her bar ware and a beautiful nickel sink and more storage.

Catrin petting George, who wanted some birthday cake!

As lovely as Leasa's home is, it's a cozy spot where dogs and kids are adored and made at home. 

I love that about her. She has her priorities straight you know?

No wonder we have so much fun.

 The time spent with good friends always goes too fast.

Wishing you a lovely holiday with those you love.

Thanks my friends for all the wonderful visits and comments all year.

I am truly thankful for all of you!

Merry Christmas!


Leasa also enlisted help of her friend Kimber Feece, who does styling.
Her business is Inspired by You and you can click on the name to contact her.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Memories & More

I'm so excited. 

School is finally over and today we head up to San Francisco with the family for some holiday fun.

Pears are good decor, no?

The past 2 weeks have been non-stop baking, shopping, Christmas card-writing, get-togethers and helping study for finals.

 I loved it, but there was literally no time to blog and so much to chat about!

I've bedazzled the house as much as I can. I prefer less glitter more greens, but I did have my moments. 

Loved our wreath from my son's Boy Scout Troop.

Got the tree home. Wonderful having big boys who can help out.

 Nutcrackers are present and accounted for.

The boys decorated the tree and it's a bit, shall we say, slapdash?

I don't have the heart to change it.

I've become a fan of good enough. Makes life a lot simpler.

That so wasn't the mom I was 10 years ago. Cards and trees had to be just so.

The best part of getting older is you get wiser!

The preschool ornaments are out and that's what matters. :)

I feel so blessed I cannot complain about any of the holiday busyness.

 Added a few bits and bobs here and there…


Got my wrapping area all set a few weeks back.. Love having a space just for that.

The kids and I made these peppermint stars and wrapped them with some ivy and twine for gifts.

I discovered a new cookie recipe that was a hit and super easy too.

White Christmas Dream Drops won Sunsets best cookie in 2011. I see why. Recipe here.

They are like baby pavlovas…So addicting!

Please don't judge my stained cookie sheets. I'm lazy and grateful for parchment…

My grandmother would never tolerate the look of them…I know they need elbow grease.

Looking through my recipe binder….

Is this a metaphor for my life and ADD or what? I've been collecting recipes for 17 years and this is what I have. I couldn't find the right recipe to save my life.

I did have a wonderful time looking through it.

 Then I opened my mom's Betty Crocker Cookie book and jumped down that rabbit hole. What a trip. I loved this book as a kid and spent hours dreaming of making the wonderful creations.

Each page and it's drawings are imprinted on my brain. Seriously.

I see now why my mom said no to some of the cookies I wanted to make. 

These bells look like a ton of work..

We did make chocolate chip cookies so many times I never need a recipe.

We also made Ethel's sugar cookies. I always wanted to make Mary's instead. 

I liked the name Mary a lot better than Ethel.  

Mary's were made with confectioner's sugar, which I have never tried.

 Ethel's are  just so good though.

Anyway, I started having holiday flashbacks..Christmas songs will do that to me.

I love so many, my personal playlist has 90, but there are tons of great new songs too.

One of the clearest Christmas memories I have must have been around 1973. My grandmother came by during Christmas break and brought us a record player for my brother and I.

 It was one of those housed in a suitcase like box with the speakers built in.  She also brought us two new Christmas albums. 

When I think of it now, that was a fun Christmas thing for her to do. 

I received this one:

That's why I know every word on this. Wonderful collection of songs too.

 Even if you are not an Elvis fan, you will love his renditions on here.

My brother Peter got this:

He ran upset to his room. I get why. 

Sorry, Elvis always trumps Perry in the cool department…

And what can I say? I was a girl and older, of course Elvis should have gone to me!

I cannot help loving many of Elvis's versions like his White Christmas and Why Can't Every Day Be Like Christmas? That one really gets to me.

Kinda  nerdy ha?

Today, my favorites are John Lennon's Happy Christmas and Sinatra's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Elton John's Step Into Christmas, Sting's Gabriel's Message, and The Carpenter's There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays.

My kids love the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack with the Vince Guaraldi Trio. All these just get better over time.. Oh also like the Celtic Christmas station on Pandora. 

 I try not to listen until 2 weeks before. Then I make everyone sick by playing my favorites and any Christmas station non-stop.

So if you are still reading…:D, what traditions and songs are you looking forward to?

Something about the holidays makes so many memories flood back to me. 

Love that. 

Wishing you a wonderful holiday and or break wherever you are in the world!


How fabulous is this dress? 

Dress photo via Pinterest.  All other photos Northern Cal Style.

Follow my board Holiday for some fun inspiration!