Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Eve of Relaxation

Last week was an absolute whirlwind.

It was a long week at work, I had a two essays and a 7-10 page final paper to write, pair those with being WAY behind in my baking, Christmas shopping and gift wrapping (doing that tonight) and you have a recipe for a completely stressed out and cranky Elise. I practically had an anxiety attach when I left my "to do" list and grocery list on my desk at work - I was about two hyperventilating breaths away from driving back to the office at midnight to pick them up. Yes, I have a problem.

The saving grace was a magical trip to Disneyland on Friday night to celebrate completing my first year at Cal Baptist University! Disney, my man and a couple churros did the trick and I am back in the holiday spirit.

Two trips to the 99 cent store, 15 or so dozen cookies, peppermint pretzels, two Target stops and some gift card purchases were sandwiched between visits with my two best friends, their husbands and babies. Seriously, those gummy-baby-smiles melt my heart!

So, I am VERY much looking forward to two days off from work to sleep, celebrate, and most importantly, eat some delicious carbohydrates!

Now, to tackle the last couple things before I can officially relax.

Merry Christmas Eve, friends! May you and yours have a wonderful, stress-free, Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Quick and Easy Christmas Gift for Kids

The best Christmas gifts I ever gave didn't require a lot of money... just a great idea and some creativity!

Christmas 2008:  I was three months away from being 25, had just lost my job (thank you, Great Recession) and was feeling pretty "lost" in regards to my future.

One thing was for sure, I wanted to make sure I still gave each of my nephews a really great Christmas present. But, what is a broke Auntie to do? Get creative, of course.

Transformers and Disney's "Cars" were the boys favorite movies so I bought each of them a little wallet - you know, the kind with the screen-printed front and the velcro closure.

I printed a wallet-sized photo of each of them on my printer at home to fit inside the small plastic ID slot and then filled the wallet with 10, one-dollar bills. It wasn't much, but it would have to do.

They. Freaked. Out.

"Look at all the money I have!"
"Auntie, I am rich!"
"Is this a real driver's license?!?"

Seeing them so excited over a $3 wallet and $10 cash was the cutest thing ever and it sure made my Auntie-heart happy.

Elijah still reminds me of the Christmas where I gave him "soooo much money."

Now that the boys are older, I doubt I could get away with the same quantity of cash (they are dreaming of iphones and Amazon gift cards) but six years ago, when they were in elementary school, I was the best Auntie ever!

Well, my niece is five year old and I decided to try the same gift idea for her this year. I purchased a "Frozen" Elsa wallet from eBay ($2, holla!) and it was delivered in 10 days - not too shabby since it came from halfway across the world. Also, you can't go wrong with Frozen merchandise, right? - Way to ride that wave for a whole year, Disney. Bravo!

I printed a photo of my niece with her name and age on it and slipped it into the plastic slot in the center of the wallet to serve as her "ID card."

Then I placed 10, one-dollar bills in the main section and a couple quarters in the coin pocket.

It may not be a lot of money, but to a child, it looks like a fortune! I can't wait to see her open it on Christmas morning. - I am sure she will have no problem thinking of something to spend her money on.

Easy, inexpensive and hug-inducing. Now that is my kind of present!

Do you have any go-to gifts that everyone loves?

This post is not sponsored, but it does contain some affiliate links which result in an affiliate commission. All thoughts are completely my own, as I only recommend items I personally love.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

For the Love of Snail Mail

I love getting snail mail. I love it so much, I almost don't mind getting bills in the mail. It is an illness.

When I moved in May 2014, I had 5 shoe boxes full of birthday cards, notes from friends and letters from the past 25 years. I consolidated to one box. Be proud... it was hard.

My fondness for receiving mail can be attributed to my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Cherry. Ms. Cherry invented "Cherryville" in our class and elementary school. The best part about Cherryville was the CherryMail. We literally had a blue and red Mailboxoutside our classroom where students could mail a letter to another student. Our class sorted, stamped, and then delivered the mail to the other classrooms.

It may have encouraged note writing in class, but it was so much fun and made me really love receiving mail.

I still love sending and receiving mail and I have a favorite list of places to get my note cards at budget friendly prices and keep a stash of blank cards in my desk at work and at home. Because you never know when you will need to send a "thank you" note.

1)  Happy Mail - Happy Mail was just launched at A Beautiful Mess. It is an easy subscription service where you receive Happy Mail once a month with $50 worth of stationary and cards stuffed into a darling envelope! I just received my first envelope and it was even better than I had anticipated. Don't feel like paying $15 a month subscription? Just pay $20 for the Happy Mail on the months you decide you want to order.

2)  The One Spot - You know what I am talking about. The baskets full of trinkets at the front of Target with $1-$3 price range. One dollar isn't bad for a pack of eight note cards, especially because they frequently stock pretty patterns and envelopes, but I really stock up on blank cards when there is a cartwheel offer on One Spot items! 30-40% off already great prices? Yes, please!  Need some info on signing up for Cartwheel? Click here or send me an email.

3)  Treat - I have been a fan of Shutterfly for years and they just launched a new greeting card site called Treat. My favorite feature is that I can purchase ONE card, customize it and have Treat mail it to my friend or loved one. Awesome? I think so. Especially since I like to send spur of the moment cards and dislike having to wait to receive it to just turn around and put it back in the mail. Another bonus is being able to add the person's name to the front of the card for a little extra personalization. Have you already tried Treat? What do you think???

4)  Michael's - Along the same lines of the One Spot at Target, the dollar section at Michael's is full of beautiful cards for $1-$3. Pair that with the 40% off coupon and this girl is in note-writing business! The only downside? The 40% off coupon is only good on ONE item and you can only use one a day. But I still think $1 for 8 pretty note cards is a great buy.

So there you have it. Those are my favorite places to get pretty note cards and stationary for a great price. Because you're already spending $0.49 for a basic stamp... why spend more than you have to for the card?

Happy shopping and saving, friends!

This post is not sponsored, but it does contain some affiliate links which result in an affiliate commission. All thoughts are completely my own, as I only recommend items I personally love.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Natural History Museum - Los Angeles, California

Houston and I were able to visit our good friends, the D'Angelos, in Los Angeles the weekend before Thanksgiving and we spent the day at the Natural History Museum in Downtown Los Angeles.

Neither Houston nor I had been to the museum and we had a wonderful time exploring and experiencing the different exhibits. 

It took me a couple minutes to realize we were in THE museum from Night at the Museum

Once I did, I  expected the T-Rex to come to life and chase me around the museum at any moment. Even dead, they look pretty ferocious.

The dinosaur exhibits were the most fascinating.  Seeing a dinosaur skeleton for the first time is quite the experience. Dinosaurs were huge, that's a given, but standing next to the bones of one is rather surreal and a little scary. 

I was enamored with the dinosaur's feet - most of them walked in their toes. Giant, terrifying, multi-ton, ballerinas.  I couldn't get over how something so ginormous could balance all that weight on their toes. 

There were plenty of other amazing exhibits to see and fun activities for kids everyone to enjoy.

The best part of the day was hanging out with our friend's daughter, Charly.  She was so entertaining and kept us laughing the whole day. Especially when she figured out that the huge T-Rex puppet (which scared me to death) was really a person dressed in a costume; she let everyone know that was NOT a real dinosaur. That kid doesn't miss a beat.

Houston and I decided we definitely need to visit more museums.  We had a wonderful time at the Natural History Museum and it was relatively inexpensive.

Do you have a favorite museum to visit?

This post is not sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links which result in an affiliate commission. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own, as I only recommend items I personally love.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wednesday Wish List No. 21 - My Christmas Wish List

So, I may not know what to buy anyone else for Christmas, but I blame that on the fact that no one in my family uses Pinterest. Why does that matter? Well, most people who have a Pinterest account also have a "wish list" board.

I wanted to share some of the things on my own wish list.

 1)  Oh Joy! Mug -- I have been in love with these mugs from the Oh Joy! Collection for Target since the line was launched a few months ago. I can't think of a more perfect mug to drink my hot chocolate from; unfortunately I have only been able to find them in one store (they sell out, obviously) and I regret not purchasing one when I had the chance.

2)  Scotch Two-Roll Tape Dispenser - During my early 20's I worked at Robinson's-May and one of the best skills I learned was how to gift wrap beautiful packages. I loved learning how to use the wire ribbon and the tape dispensers were amazing! I have had my eye on this one from Amazon for a while now, and I think I may just have to buy it for myself.

3)  Ruffled Cake Stand -- Most people already know of my obsession love of cake stands and this one is just delightful. A pretty color, ruffles and a tiny cake stand all in one? I am surprised I haven't already purchased it.

4)  Roses Jewelry Dish -- I saw this dish at Forever21 and thought of a million different uses for it. Paper clips, earrings, any little thing that needs corralling. I like organization, I like organization tools. This one is a "must-have."

 5)  Porcelain Measuring Cups -- I saw these while I was shopping with Leah and immediately fell in love with them. There was a matching pitcher and tea spoons. I need them all, but I really need the measuring cups!

6)  Rose Ceramic Jewelry Holder -- This has been a longtime favorite of mine - yes, another container to hold paper clips, bobby pins, etc. I am a girl who likes to hide my ugly office supplies in pretty containers.

Some other  items I am really wanting:
* The beginners DSLR course from A Beautiful Mess.
* A Lighting Kit -(the yellow photos of my apartment make me cringe.)
* A fireproof box - I am terrified of losing 20 years worth of photos. Until I manage to get everything backed up online, I think I need one of these.

So tell me, what is on YOUR wish list?

This post is not sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links which result in an affiliate commission. All thoughts are completely my own, as I only recommend items I personally love.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Cards Giveaway

Today's post and giveaway are sponsored by the sweet people at

I go through phases when it comes to mailing Christmas cards. Some years I am all about the cards ('bout the cards, not tinsel) and other years... meh. Not so much.

Is it weird for an un-married gal to send out Christmas cards? Should I spend the time and money on them when they will just get thrown away after the new year (unless you are card a hoarder like me)? Do people even want my Christmas card?

But there is something really fun about designing your own Christmas card that makes them so much more interesting than a generic store-bought pack of red and green cards with "Ho Ho Ho" embossed in gold. And in my case, I get to use a pretty photo I took of my favorite ornament on my Christmas tree!

I really enjoyed using the Cardstore site to experiment with a couple designs. Want to know what I thought was awesome? I didn't have to create an account to test out the designs. That's right... they want you to be able to import your photo and check it out without having to take the time to create and account!

Here are some of my favorites:

While I was playing around with all the different templates and struggling to decide which one was "just right" I noticed a fun contest on the site:  Candid Christmas Cards. They want your wacky, imperfect, photo shoot bloopers and crying babies!

The grand prize winner will receive a $1,500 Visa gift card to put towards a holiday trip, a Nikon CoolPix camera, and free Cardstore Christmas cards.

You bet your booty I submitted a photo!!! $1,500 to spend on a vacation, heck yes!!! I submitted a photo of Houston from last Christmas with Christmas lights on his cowboy hat.

The content ends this Wednesday, so be sure to submit your own photo before then. Don't want to submit a photo? Then go vote for my Christmas Cowboy here. (Thanks in advance).

Now, lucky for you, Cardstore wants to help YOU with your Christmas card shopping.  One lucky person will win 50 free Christmas cards from! Just enter in the rafflecopter below and a winner we be chosen at random on Friday (12/5/14)! As always, be honest with your entries as they will be verified.

The holidays are upon us, friends.  So take some time to drink some cocoa, snuggle in cozy blankets and spread some Christmas cheer.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will receive a code by email for 50 free custom Christmas Cards from The redemption code must be used in one transaction and shipping is not included. The prize will be forfeited if I am unable to reach you, so please include your contact information.

Friday, November 28, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas is coming - it is only 4 Saturdays away. Insert panic here.

I am at a complete loss as to what to buy for any member of my family.  We have anything and everything we need and I am just not on board with buying more trinkets to add to he clutter we all already have. Right? Right.

I also don't feel like spending an exorbitant amount of money (I never do) on half hearted gifts.

But I despise giving gift cards for Christmas.  I usually pride myself if being creative with my gift giving, even if it is a bottle of soap or a bag of cookies

But. Never have I been faced with a Christmas where I am absolutely stumped on what to buy nor just one or two people, but everyone

So I am dipping into some of my go-to gift ideas for things that everyone loves.

Gift cards -I know I said I don't like giving gift cards, but sometimes people genuinely prefer them and they are easy to purchase.

Photo gifts - I don't have the time to make any albums for Christmas gifts, but I can whip up a mouse pad, notebook or a large print to frame in under 10 minutes.  Shutterfly is my favorite photo site for digital albums and other photo gifts. I try other photo sites when I can get something for free (this girl loves a good freebie) but Shutterfly is the site I use for my own albums. Here is the mouse pad I gave Ruby for her birthday last year. 

For the ladies - prettyearrings.- No woman has ever disliked a pretty pair ofearrings. They don't have to be anything overly extravagant or expensive to be a great gift.

For the gents - since we live in. California and it is currently 75 degrees in December, BBQing is something we can do all year long.  Every great from master needs a couple essentials and this Cuisinart set fits the bill. (BBQ set)

For the kids - I don't have children of my own, but I do have 5 nephews and one niece. They are getting harder to shop for as they get older (read: more opinionated) so last year I had a gift theme for the older boys: College gear.Sweatshirt, notebooks, hats, you name it, if they have a college they are interested in, buy all the merchandise you can find.  Encouraging a college education and crossing gifts off your list is a win-win.

For the babies - it is a good thing I didn't discover Bub and Bug Studio while my niece was little.  I easily would have gone broke. Kelly makes the most adorable bows for little girls and she has the sweetest twin babies I have ever seen (support small businesses and buy something from her!) For the little boys in your life? Baby Bow Ties. It is never too late to instill gentlemanly behavior!

So now I am back to shopping online and drinking my cocoa. Bring on the cozy blankets!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday Wish List No. 20

It is no secret that I am ready to be done (stick a fork in it, done) with college. I am in the home stretch of my very belated college education and I am on track to graduate in 2017.  That sounds so far away, but considering the 5 1/2 years I have already put in, this is the fourth quarter, baby!

Working full-time and getting an education is no joke. I am, however, so grateful for the CBU OPS program that is allowing me to get my degree online.

Plain and simple: don't be a dummy and skip college.  I had "good" reasons for not going straight out of high school, but in hindsight I was just young and stubborn with no real idea how the world would work ten years later.

I am already planning what I will do once I graduate and how I will use the "extra" hours I get back in my day.  There will be new recipes to try, scrapbooks to catch up on (woah there, half-finished 2008 book) and reading.  So much reading!!!

Now, part of me hopes I can take an extended, very needed, and lovely break from a ton of reading but the other part of me can't wait to read for FUN again.

The last book I read that wasn't school related was the Twilight series in 2009 - coincidentally, I finished Breaking Dawnthe last week of my first class at RCC. I was 25, had just started a new job/career, and was embarking on a wild and crazy journey in education.

Here is what I am dying to read (in no particular order):

Blog Life - The girls at A Beautiful Mess are so inspiring and encouraging. This e-course looks like it is chock-full of wonderful ideas, tips and most of all, FUN!

#GIRLBOSS- This sounds like such a fun read and an exciting tale of how to build an empire.

Homemakers: A Domestic Handbook for a New Generation- I discovered Brit Morin on a blog nearly 4 years ago (when her tech-inspired wedding was featured). She is creative and classy and pretty business savvy. -- bet you didn't know I was a closet rap artist.

Crazy Sexy Diet- Kris Carr has an amazing story of survival and such a positive outlook on life. Maybe I could afford to learn a thing or two while enjoying her writing.

Your Beautiful Life - Karen is my newest blogger friend who lives in Australia and she has an e-book available for free when you sign up for her newsletter. She is a talented lady who decorates her home beautifully and I am excited to read the e-book. (YOU should go get a free copy for yourself while you're thinking about it).

Yes Please- I love me some laughs and, from what I hear, Amy Poehler's new book doesn't disappoint.

I don't want to jinx myself... but I am hoping I can complete my homework by Friday and then have all day Saturday to curl up and read at least one of these books. A book, some cocoa and left over pie. What more could a girl want???

I hope you're off to have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. Remember: it is the one day of the year when wearing elastic waist pants is totally acceptable.

This post is not sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links which result in an affiliate commission. All thoughts are completely my own, as I only recommend items I personally love.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Wish List No. 19

Do you love the beautiful, candle wonderland that is Anthropologie? Do you cringe when you see the price tags? You are not alone my friend. You are not alone.

I've mentioned my love for Anthro before (here and here)… and I figured with Christmas just around the corner (only 35 more days!) Now would be the perfect time for another Anthropologie hack!

There are so many beautiful Christmas decorations and cold-weather items that are perfect Christmas gift ideas or beautiful items to add to your own wishlist and I have found some equally beautiful but less expensive options. Because even if you're done with shopping for everyone else, there are always pretty things to buy for yourself! 

The animal busts are perfect additions to a gallery wall or as an accent by itself and these are both lovely.

I can't even explain how much I love these faux-fur tree skirts! They look so wintery and pretty - maybe they could double as a cozy couch blanket too???

The Anthro latte bowls are perfect for cereal, ice cream, soup, you name it! Plus, they come in so many beautiful colors! I appreciate that the price of the bowls at Anthro (5/$30) but I was excited to find a more inexpensive version too!

Elastic hair ties that don't rip my hair out? Yes please. -- These would make great stocking stuffers or gifts for the ladies at my office.

Some day I will own a settee. It is the one piece of furniture I always catch myself looking at when I am out shopping. Can you imagine a more perfect place to sit and put your shoes on in the morning? Yea, me neither.

Cozy beanies are not something I usually have in my Southern California wardrobe, but they come in handy when Houston and I visit Minnesota or if it happens to be a chilly evening when we look at Christmas lights.

What awesome Anthropologie Hacks have you found in your shopping adventures? I would love to see them!

This post is not sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links which result in an affiliate commission. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own, as I only recommend items I personally love.