Category Archives: holidays

Manners Monday: Reclaiming the fine art of the Thank You note

Ah. The day after Christmas. Boxing Day if you are in a Boxing Day country. Personally I think Boxing Day is a great idea… why don’t we have Boxing Day? Or just celebrate St. Stephen’s Day? I know, it’s just an excuse to go out and shop, but the extra bank holiday might be appreciated by some. Anyway…

Gifts have been unwrapped and put away. Paper and packaging has been cleared away. New play-doh that came out of the can in such vibrant colors are now a sad shade of beige. What’s next to do? Thank You Notes. Time to write the Thank You notes.

What?! You may think that Thank You notes are antiquated and a throwback to the dark ages before we had stuff like email and unlimited minutes and instant gratification but that is what makes Thank You notes (or letter writing and manners in general) is fine art that transcends all social and class lines. It really can be the great equalizer!

Writing a note by hand allows you to put to paper human emotions: joy, sorrow, gratitude, love, nostalgia. And if you think about it, those (and anger) are among the first emotions we learn to articulate verbally.

Before sitting down to write your notes, gather your supplies:

Pen

Paper

Envelopes

Address Book

List of gifts and their givers (if needed)

According to Margaret Shepherd, author of The Art of the Handwritten Note,  your Thank You Note should have five characteristics. It should be: generous, specific, prompt, succinct and personal.

Generous. Send the note even if you’ve already thanked the giver in another way.

Specific. Mention the gift but thank them for the THOUGHT behind it.

Prompt. Send the note right away, but don’t let lateness stop you from writing at all.

Succinct. Keep it short by writing about any unrelated matters in a separate note.

Personal. Write it by hand. No form letters, printouts or greeting cards.

Things to say:

Thank you so much.

It’s just what I’ve wanted

How did you guess I wanted a [the gift]

I am enjoying wearing, playing with, looking at, eating, listening to, reading [the gift]

You were so thoughtful, kind, generous

Things to avoid:

Thank you for the gift [this may imply to the giver that you have forgotten what they gave you or that you lost the gift. EXCEPTION: when the gift is money in some form. In that case, thank them for the “gift” but then be sure to tell them what you are planning to do with the gift.]

You shouldn’t have 

Thank you for dinner. [Was the rest of the evening just awful?]

I’m exchanging it. [Wow.]

IT’S THE BEST GIFT EVER!! [makes you sound a bit insincere.]

Now some of you, like me, are parents. And since you are a parent, that means you have children. If you have taught your kids to say “thank you,” you can teach them to write thank you notes! When it comes to kids, you have a new options. For the first five years, or so, you can write on your child’s behalf. I, personally, write in the child’s voice. For an older preschooler, they could dictate to you what to write or copy a few lines down that you have written for them (if they can write their letters) or they can write their name at the end of the note.

For older children, help them enjoy writing notes by employing some of the following tactics:

Schedule time together to write. We all know how kids fare better when they know what to expect and when, so set aside, in advance, a set an hour or so on a specific day to write notes

Support your child. Give your child their very own stationery and special pen. Make sure your child has all of the needed addresses or address the envelopes for them as they write the note.

Personalize it. If you child likes glitter, stickers, stamps, or the like, let them add the embellishments to their note.

Model. Your child will not want to write thank you notes if they do not see you writing notes. Just as your child sees you saying “Thank You” in person, let them see how that gratitude is translated into a thank you note. Make sure your child sees how enjoyable RECEIVING thank-you notes is by reading the notes you receive aloud and posting them.

Join them. Sit down with your child and write something as well: your own thank-you notes, journal, a letter, etc. If nothing else, it’s helpful for your child for you to be there, to offer support with spelling, advice and phrasing.

Have the gift at the ready. Kids are concrete. They remember the here and now, so it might be helpful for to have the gift in front of your child when they write. Ask your child how they felt when they received the gift. If they were not too keen on the gift, ask them to imagine how happy Auntie was picking out the gift for them.

Reciprocity. Help your child understand the pleasure people get from being thanked by making sure they know what it feels like to give a gift and then receive a thank-you note. If you write a thank-you note to your child, it is a concrete example of how thank-you notes make people feel. And how cool is it, as a child, to receive a thank-you note from a grown-up?!

I hope this takes some of the scare out of writing thank-you notes and encourages you to start a new tradition of your own!

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Filed under christmas, etiquette, family, gifts, holidays, manners, monday, mothering, toddler

Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Homemade Gifts

We are down to  2 Saturdays until Christmas! I am hopping a plane back to the midwest to attend a baptism in a few hours leaving Daddy and Daughters home for a little Daddy-Daughters weekend, in which they will be taking the Christmas Card Picture (hint… The Wisconsin Badgers will have something to do with the picture!) and possibly getting the tree. I am a little sad to miss out on the tree hunt, but I am very excited for my Godson, Cazimir’s, baptism.

So far, we’ve covered ladiesgentlemen and those-hard-to-shop-for ; this week… easy-peasy homemade gifts for even the most non-crafty! I’ll admit right at the outset… some of these ideas came from Pinterest. Pinterest is a crafty and non-crafty girls’ dream! But beware… it can be addicting. You’ve been warned.

Fleece-Tie Blanket.

This is an easy craft that doesn’t take that much time. You need two pieces of fleece, both the same length. Lay one piece on top of the other and make continuous cuts around the outside, 2″ (5cm) in length. Once all of the cuts are made, tie one fringe from fleece #1 to one fringe of fleece #2 all around, using square knots. Once you’ve finished, you have a great, practical gift for anyone! One key thing to keep in mind, make sure your shears are sharp because fleece is very dulling.

Gifts-In-A-Jar

I personally love gifts in jars. They are pretty to look at. They store well and when you are done with them, you have a new jar! For most food-based gifts-in-jars, you will need a 1-QT Mason Jar with lid. You can jazz the jar up with some scrap fabric, ribbons and a hot glue gun. For bath/ beauty gifts-in-jars, the Pint Sized Mason Jar should suffice.

Chocolate Holiday Cookies (from Taste of Home)

1.5 c. All Purpose Flour

0.5t baking soda

0.25t salt

0.5 c Dark Cocoa

0.75c sugar

0.3 c baked brown sugar

1.25c red and green M&M’s

0.3c white baking chips

1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. In a 1 QT jar, layer (in order) the flour mixture, cocoa, sugar, brown sugar, M&Ms and baking chips. Cover and store in a cool, dry place for up to one month. (Makes 36 cookies)

To the jar, add the following directions:

This recipe makes 3 dozen cookies. Store the mix in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month. To make these festive cookies, you will need:

0.75 c butter (softened)

1 egg

1.5 t vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, beat the butter, egg and vanilla until well-blended. Add contents of jar and stir until combined.

2. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 in apart onto an ungreased baking pan. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in airtight container.

Mmm-Good Pasta Soup (from Taste of Home)

0.5 c. dried split peas

2T chicken bouillon granules

0.5 c dried lentils

2T dried minced onion

1t dried basil

1t dried parsley flakes

1 envelope vegetable soup mix

2c uncooked tricolor spiral pasta

1. In a 1QT jar, layer the first seven ingredients in the order listed. Place the pasta in a 1QT resealable plastic bag; add to the jar. Seal tightly, store in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. (makes 3.5 QTs soup.)

To the jar, add the following directions:

This will make 3.5 quarts of a delicious soup… enough to feed 14 people! You will need:

Contents of your soup jar

10 cups water

3 cups cubed cooked chicken

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained.

1. Remove pasta from top of jar and set aside. Place water in a Dutch Oven; stir in soup mix. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Add the chicken, tomatoes, and pasta. Cover and simmer 15-20 min longer or until pasta, peas and lentils are tender.

Bath Seeds

1 c. baking soda

0.5 c citric acid (order online)

0.5 c cornstarch

2T plus 1t oil (almond, sunflower, coconut, mineral, canola or baby)

2t water

1-2t essential oil (order online)

0.25 t Borax

food coloring

Mix baking soda, citric acid and cornstarch. Mix the wet ingredients and the Borax and slowly add to the dry ingredients, mixing constantly. Mix SLOWLY or you will get bubbles. Pour into a 1 QT jar and add the following to the label:

Homemade Bath Seeds

Use 2-4 Tablespoons per bath

And now, from Pinterest!

Reindeer Thumbprint Ornament from Little Bit Funky

Memory Ornaments from InMyOwnStyle

T-shirt Shag Rug by Rags by Sock Monkey

Crayon Monogram by Chic and Chic Nursery (great for teachers!)

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Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! This has been a fun series and I hope that you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!


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Filed under christmas, crafts, family, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, saturday

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Best Wishes and all of God’s Blessings on You and Yours on this Thanksgiving!!

It’s odd, it doesn’t really feel like Thanksgiving here because we aren’t traveling as we are not having family in, but it’s nice to have Daddy home for the day and to just hang out together.

Have a great day and don’t eat too much Turkey!

And… starting tomorrow, I’ve linked up with a few friends to have an online vendor show. If you are interested in checking out who is there and maybe getting some Black Friday deals, click here.

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Safe Travels and Happy Thanksgiving!


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Whatever Wednesday! Turkey Hats!

In honor of Thanksgiving, here are our Turkey Hats.

Thanks to Nina for the inspiration!

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Safe Travels and Happy Thanksgiving!


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Filed under Art, crafts, family, holidays, wednesday

It’s that time again! Advent!!

I was looking at some Halloween pictures on-line this past week and I noticed a “different” costume on the daughter of my friend. Her little girl was dressed as a Jack-O-Lantern, but she had little Elf Shoes and a Santa Hat on. The caption of the picture said that she was dressed as… The Christmas Creep. Not only was this a cute costume, but it was also very applicable. Think about, September was barely in the books when stores started putting out their Christmas Displays.

I understand that The Christmas Shopping Season is when most retailers make enough money to get into the black, but how are we as parents to handle this creep within our families? How do we keep Christmas as special as it is while we are reminded of it’s presence starting in the Fall? How are we supposed to help our families remember that Jesus is the reason for the season and not getting new stuff? One way that our family does is pretty easy and fun: We celebrate Advent.

I grew up in a black Baptist church and when I was a Junior in college, I converted to Catholicism. Growing up, the only thing that I knew about Advent is that there was a cute little calendar that had chocolates, one for every day leading up to Christmas (My father’s side of the family is German and I attended a German Language Elementary School.) Once I became Catholic, however, I learned there was whole season in the liturgical calendar for Advent. Advent gives us the gift of four week of preparation: preparing our hearts and our homes for the coming of the Christ Child. It is four weeks for us to re-focus on what is most important, getting ready for the bridegroom to come to his bride.

Having two little ones, my husband and I know that we have to keep our Advent activities simple but still educational. It is important to us, as well, to make Advent just as meaningful as Easter, Lent, or Christmas. Some of our favorite Advent activities are:

– The Advent Wreath: This wreath of evergreen branches sits on our dining table and has 4 or 5 candles (1 candle for every Sunday of Advent with an optional candle for Christmas Eve) Three candles are purple, one is pink and the optional candle is usually white. I don’t have to tell you that kids and candles are always a hit. Before sitting down for the Sunday meal, we say one of the “O Antiphons” and light a purple candle. On week 2, we light 2 purple candles, etc. Week 3 brings the two purple candles and the pink (Gaudate Sunday: Time to Rejoice! The Christ Child is near!) and week 4 we light all four candles. On Christmas Eve, we light the white candle in the center, along with the other four and turn off the rest of the lights in the house and dine by candlelight. The candles stay lit though the evening meal and we let the girls take turns blowing the candle out after the meal.

– Advent Garland: This activity is great for preschoolers. First prep a series of purple and pink strips of construction paper along with some tape (you will need 3 purple strips for every 1 pink strip) to make chain garland. The garland follows the pattern: Purple, Purple, Pink, Purple (just like the Advent Candles on your wreath.) Not only does this make a cute Advent decoration, but it also helps to teach pattern recognition in your child!

– Jesse Tree: This activity does take a little more prep on the part of the parents, but you can make it as simple of as elaborate as you would like. The Jesse Tree tradition comes from the passage in the Bible where it talks about Christ coming from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1.) The tree can be just about anything: a bare branch from outside, a tree painted on your window, a hand-drawn tree on a large piece of paper. There are 24 Jesse Tree Ornaments (one for every day of Advent- not counting Sundays, or you can start your tree on December 1 and hang an ornament daily.) We usually hang our ornaments after dinner: we read the bible passage that matches the ornament or tell the bible story and the girls get to hang the ornament. You can either print off Jesse Tree ornaments or you can make them. Google “Jesse Tree” for some additional ideas or images.

This year, Advent begins on November 27 and ends on December 24 and I hope that these suggestions help you to start a few new traditions within your family and to stave off that “Christmas Creep” a little longer!
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Have a blessed Advent!


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Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Hard-To-Shop-For

We are down to  5 Saturdays until Christmas! In our family we really value not celebrating/ decorating Christmas until after Thanksgiving (although I would prefer waiting until after ADVENT, but we compromise.) But that’s not so say that the shopping portion can not be completed earlier!

Sometimes it’s really hard to find great gifts for people, ones that are functional but also pleasant, so I thought that I would offer some unsolicited advice on what I would consider great gifts. So far, we’ve covered ladies and gentlemen; this week… those who are hard-to-shop-for/ “have everything” in your life! These are the people who tend to receive cash or gift cards or something just as generic. So, this year, lets change it up a bit and consider Charitable Donations!

These can be a bit on the tricky side. The key to giving a charitable donation is to keep your recipient and their stance on issues in mind. Your gift is supposed to be one of appreciation and kindness and should not start an ideological war. The list below is not a comprehensive list and you can of course look to local agencies, but consider this a starting point!

To fight hunger/ aid disaster relief

American Red Cross

-Feeding America

Share Our Strength

The Salvation Army

For the Animal Lover 

ASPCA

Best Friends Animal Society

-Local Animal Rescues

For the educators

Donors Choose

For non-cash charitable donations

These are kind of neat because you can use your cash to buy a gift in someone’s name which is then donated to a family. Some examples of the gifts are: cows, goats, honeybees, fish for a fish pond, micro finance, etc.

Samaritan’s Purse (Christian Organization)

Heifer International

Kiva (micro finance for men and women)

Accion (heavier emphasis on financing women)

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Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! Next week, we’ll talk about some easy-peasy handmade gifts that even the non-crafy among us can make and give!! And of course, if you know of other charities or other great gifts, please leave a comment below!


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Filed under christmas, family, gentlemen, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, ladies, saturday

Maybe that wasn’t the best tactic, after all?

Have you ever entered into a conversation with a loved one, only to have it turn into something very negative?

A while ago, DH and I were talking about Christmas traditions that each of our respective families celebrated when we were growing up. If I had to characterize the differences, it would be best to say that the celebrations in my family where more Christ-centered, while DH’s family was more family-centered. That’s not to say that my family ignored the family aspect of Christmas and it’s not to say that DH’s family ignored the Christ aspect of Christmas, but it is to say that the emphasis was placed differently and we both have pleasant memories of Christmas and want to bring both of our traditions to the plate and meld them seamlessly.

So that’s how the conversation started. It finished not so civilly.

It’s no secret that DH and I are in different places on our spiritual journey, couple that with our personalities and you get a hot mess. According Myers-Briggs typology, I am an ESTJ. If you know me personally, that should not be a surprise. For those of you not well acquainted with me here are some ESTJ characteristics:

ESTJs are practical, realistic, and matter-of-fact, with a natural head for business or mechanics. Though they are not interested in subjects they see no use for, they can apply themselves when necessary. They like to organize and run activities. ESTJs make good administrators, especially if they remember to consider others’ feelings and points of view, which they often miss. (Myers-Biggs description, emphasis mine.)

ESTJs are civic-minded individuals who dedicate themselves to maintaining the institutions behind a smooth-running society. They are defenders of the status quo and strong believers in rules and procedures. ESTJs are outgoing and do not hesitate to communicate their opinions and expectations to others. (Keirsey description, emphasis mine.)

ESTJs thrive on order and continuity. Being extraverted, their focus involves organization of people, which translates into supervision. While ENTJs enjoy organizing and mobilizing people according to their own theories and tactically based agendas, ESTJs are content to enforce “the rules,” often dictated by tradition or handed down from a higher authority.

ESTJs are joiners. They seek out like-minded companions in clubs, civic groups, churches and other service organizations. The need for belonging is woven into the fiber of SJs. The family likewise is a central focus for ESTJs, and attendance at such events as weddings, funerals and family reunions is obligatory.

Service, the tangible expression of responsibility, is another key focus for ESTJs. They love to provide and to receive good service. The ESTJ merchant who provides dependable service has done much to enhance her self image.

ESTJs have an acute sense for orthodoxy. Much of their evaluation of persons and activities reflects their strong sense of what is “normal” and what isn’t. ESTJ humor is frequently centered around something or someone being off center or behaving abnormally. (from typologic.com, emphasis mine)

Also, according to typelogic… Simon Peter was a type ESTJ.

So where does this lead us? Well, DH is not an ESTJ and in fact it would be great if he would find out his typology! But he won’t because he’s not a big fan of that “mumbo-jumbo.” 🙂

But what did I learn?

1. I am not the boss of others.

2. I cannot impose my will on others.

3. Jesus met people where they were. So should I.

4. God is sovereign and has an ultimate plan that I neither need to know nor am obliged to know the details of.

Now, I know all of this, but it does not make it any easier! I see husbands that are involved with their church and are Catholic/ Christian not just on Sunday and I can’t help but think how great that would be for our family if we were truly united in the faith… if only my husband was as on fire as I am for Christ and for His church. But he is not and no amount of talking, chiding, nagging, conversing, suggesting will change that.

Man does not have the ability to change the heart of another… only Christ can do that.

Do we attend Mass at least 98% of the time as a family? Yes.

Is my husband a good man? Yes.

Does my husband believe in the existence of Christ? I think so.

So, why isn’t that good enough?

I blame my personality.
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Filed under Catholic, challenge, family, fathers, holidays, husband, marriage, monday

Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Gentleman

We are down to  6 Saturdays until Christmas! In our family we really value not celebrating/ decorating Christmas until after Thanksgiving (although I would prefer waiting until after ADVENT, but we compromise.) But that’s not so say that the shopping portion can not be completed earlier!

Sometimes it’s really hard to find great gifts for people, ones that are functional but also pleasant, so I thought that I would offer some unsolicited advice on what I would consider great gifts. Last week, we talked about the ladies; this week… the men in your life!

For the gentleman:

Pocket Handkerchief/ Pocket Square

Now I know what you are thinking… ewww. But I will tell you, both my husband and his father swear by their pocket handkerchiefs. They always have one on them and they are not just for blowing noses. A gentleman can use his handkerchief as a small bandage or tourniquet, or to carry small treasures as they are found. Maybe you aren’t too keen on the hygiene part of the handkerchief? Maybe consider a patterned pocket square for his suits.

Cuff Links and Collar Stays

If your gent is wearing a French Cuff suit, he will need a great set of links. You can find links at all price points and all materials. In addition, unless your gents’ shirts have button-down collar points, he might appreciate collar stays. Just like cuff links, you can find collar stays in all sorts of material, but my hubs swears by his brass ones.


These engraved collar stays can be found at Collar Bars

Stove-top Espresso Machine
What a way to start the morning! If your guy loves his espresso, but not the hit on his wallet by stopping at LCS (local coffeeshop) every morning, consider a MokaPot. Priced very competitively it is a handsome addition to your kitchen… just like your gent!

Splurge:
A classy timepiece. And he can never claim to not know what time it is!

For the Outdoorsman:

A Rugged Wallet
Even though one is out of doors, you still need a wallet to keep everything together!

A Bowie Knife

Your guy could take this gift one of two ways… hopefully he will look at your giving him a great survival tool.

Starbucks Via

This is not your mother’s instant coffee! I am a huge fan of Starbucks VIA and I always have a stash here at home when just don’t feel like making a Press full of coffee. All your guy would need for a cuppa-joe on the go is fresh, clean water and a heating source.

Splurge:
A trip to Yellowstone National Forest (or another equivalent) so he can live out all of his outdoorsy dreams!

For the techie guy:

Computer Bag
Lots of pockets and a space for his laptop, a computer bag will keep your guy organized and ready for anything!

Arcade Cabinet for the iPad

If your guy spent a lot of time at the arcade as a kid, or thinks arcades are just cool and this current generation is missing out… here you go!

iPhone Case Bottle Opener

Never be without a bottle opener again.

Splurge:
A New Computer

Find out what he is looking for, or take him along to buy a new computer and surprise him by footing the bill.


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Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! Next week, we’ll talk about those who have “everything” in your life!!


Many of the bags shown can be ordered at my Thirty-One webstore.

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Filed under christmas, gentlemen, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, saturday

Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Ladies

Looking at my calendar this morning, I’ve realized that there are (including today) 7 Saturdays until Christmas! Shopping is not my favorite past time, but if I have a plan, then it’s more bearable.

Sometimes it’s really hard to find great gifts for people, ones that are functional but also pleasant, so I thought that I would offer some unsolicited advice on what I would consider great gifts. For the next 5 weeks, I will offer some gift ideas for the people in your life. This week… let’s start with the ladies!

For the crafty gal:
-Fingerless mitts are great for keeping her palms and wrists warm, but still giving her the dexterity for working her craft. For some reason, knitting/ crocheting/ sewing tends to make your hands cold!

-A new craft bag with lots of pockets so she can keep all of her must haves in place

– Luxe Hand Lotion. When working with natural fibers, like wool, it can really dry out your hands. Surprise her with a great hand cream in a travel size so she can tuck it into her craft bag.

– SPLURGE: an iPad 2 works fantastically for storing patterns and scrapbook templates. Plus, now with iCloud, all of those files can be stored “in the Cloud” and shared across platforms.

For the Classy Gal:
-The new edition of Emily Post’s Etiquitte. Timeless, classic and always handy.

-Fine writing paper. These tend to be heavier weight with natural fibers and they are a dream to write on. Complete the gift with a fountain pen with a fun ink color.

A small mirrored or silver tray, perfect for her dresser with an assortment of nail polish in neutral shades.

-SPLURGE: classic earring studs. Something simple in diamond or pearl

For the trendsetter:
– Infinity scarves. These scarves are essentially one large loop of material, but can be styled in multiple ways. If you are a knitter, grab your size 50 needles and some super chunky yarn and make one out of a giant I-cord!

-A fun wristlet. Wristlets are great because they can double as wallets, plus they make a cute little handbag for girls’ night out.

-Head back to the nail polish section and pick up some fun shades: teal, gunmetal, taupe, magenta, enclose it with a gift certificate for a mani/pedi and pack it into a cute bag!

-SPLURGE: the new iPhone 4S, if she doesn’t have one already!

For the gal who loves to cook:

– Grab some local apples, a bamboo spoon, a few spices and your favorite recipe for apple pie and tuck it into a handy tote!

-A great infused vinegar or olive oil

-A retro inspired apron

-SPLURGE: A high quality French Oven

For your hairdresser/child’s teacher/personal trainer:
– coffee mug, assortment of teas and a gift card all tucked in a small bag

– personalized thermal lunch bag

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Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! Next week, we’ll talk about the men in your life!!


Many of the bags shown can be ordered at my Thirty-One webstore.

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Filed under christmas, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, ladies, saturday