It is official.
I started my Christmas shopping today.
Are you jealous? I’m so proud of myself I am contemplating giving myself a little reward.
It looks like this is about to happen.
Don’t judge. It is just a taste.
Whenever Oprah touches something it turns to gold. If your book makes it into her “book club” you are an instant best seller.
If Oprah features your product during her “favorite things” holiday episode, it is be flying off the shelves the next day.
And if Oprah thinks you are talented -soon you will be performing in Madison Square Garden with a super star.
And eventually on Glee.
Unfortunately, an endorsement here doesn’t come with such incredible outcomes. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth something.
Already, I have endorsed quite a few pro ducts and services on this blog:
Stitch Fix – a personal shopping service that is both fun and convenient
Pinterest – the most inspiring site on the web, hands down
Container Store – the best place to buy orgnaization supplies
Erin Condren – the best place to buy labels for your organizational supplies
Etsy – essentially, an online craft fair
Well today I have another thing to add to the list: SOAP.com
Living in New York City isn’t always as glamorous as it appears on Sex and the City. It is expensive. It is dirty. It is loud. And doing simple things like going grocery shopping or running errands is hard.
Very few people have cars. The closest Wal-Mart is over 10 miles away in New Jersey. And at the local Duane Reade, a 6 pack of toilet paper costs $12.99. And because I could only carry a few things at a time, my trips to the pharmacy for paper towels, Cascade, Tide and shampoo were frequent: 4-5 times week. And then I discovered SOAP.com and my life changed.
With over 25,000 products under one virtual roof, they do the dirty work for you. From personal products like shampoo and makeup to household necessities they’ve got you covered. And they have great prices too! So instead of paying 12.99 for 6 rolls of toilet paper, I am now only paying $6.99! And here’s the best part: they deliver everything to your door within 2 business days for free!
Now some people might not see the value of this service. Let me tell you – these people don’t live in New York City. And if they do, they are one of the lucky few who have access to a car.
So if driving to your local Wal-Mart or Target isn’t an option, I strongly encourage you to place an order at SOAP.com – You won’t regret it!
Now if only they could figure out a way to actually clean your apartment for you…
Wikipedia defines a guilty pleasure as, “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The guilt involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one’s lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes. Fashion, video games, music,movies and junk food can be examples of guilty pleasures.” I define it as something I like and get enjoyment out of, but would probably be judged for it and therefore, I don’t go around broadcasting it to the world…
or do I?
5. Rearranging the dishes in the dishwasher at work
I’m not going to lie, we have a pretty crappy dishwasher at work. The “spokes” of the rack are spaced much too closely together and we have rather large/thick dishes in our kitchen. People are forced to shove their dishes into place and the spokes become bent creating even more inefficiency. Regardless of the technical flaws with the machine, people just pile their dishes into the dish washer, not really taking into consideration proper dish placement, an art form that I have definitely mastered. As a result, I spend approximately 5-10 minutes, probably every day, rearranging the dishes in the dishwasher. Honestly, it is really embarrassing when someone catches me doing this – I try my best to conceal. But the thrill of seeing all the dishes lined up properly, as well as the creation of more usable space, it really quite exhilarating. I know, working with me is pretty much a
nightmare dream come true.
4. Refolding, sorting and color coding my clothing
Every five or six weeks I tackle the project of reorganizing my closet. Most of the time when I begin this project my closet is pretty neat and organized. Or at least that is what most people would think, but not me. I begin by piling everything onto my bed and begin folding, sorting, and organizing before putting it all back in place. The entire process can take a few hours. In the end, my goal is to have my closet look like the shelves and racks of a high-end designer boutique. I want all of my sweaters to be folder perfectly with a piece of tissue paper inside. I need matching coat hangers – at least within each “section” of my closets (i.e. dresses, skirts, blouses, tank tops, etc). And ideally things should be color coded. Basically, I want my closet to mimic that of Ms. Martha Stewart herself. When Matt and I moved in together this goal became much more challenging as I lost roughly half of the hanging space and now have to deal with his disorganized system, which includes metal hangers and shirts in plastic bags from the dry cleaners. I’ve yet to include his clothing in this re-org project, but I am not too sure how much longer I can hold off. Although Matt would probably be furious with me, the idea of having our entire closet organized is just too tempting.
3. Buying things on sale and bragging about it
I love a good sale. The thrill of getting something at a discounted price is definitely a high for me. Even though there is typically a huge retail mark up, I think that because I am not paying full price, somehow I have “won”. After nearly every shopping trip where I have saved something, be in 5% off or 75% off, I need to brag about my accomplishments. Typically I call either my mom or my sister – they are the most likely to be impressed and make me feel good about my purchases. Sometimes, if I have purchased a really practical item, I will call my dad. I NEVER call Matt because he always makes me feel guilty about spending money – no matter how much I have saved (major buzz kill – I guess it is something about perceived savings…) Just last week I called my mom to tell her about the great articles of clothing I got at the Gap, all at ridiculously discounted prices. She was appropriately impressed and even thought about making a trip to her local Gap store as well. Unfortunately in my haste to score a deal, I didn’t try on anything and ended up returning half of the things I purchased this afternoon. Sad. But hey, returning clothes is essentially like making money, right?
Toddlers and Tiaras. Extreme Couponing.
John and Kate Plus Eight. 19 Kids and Counting. Say Yes to the Dress. Sister Wives. Hoarding: Buried Alive. Sarah Palin’s Alaskan Adventure (I know, I just threw up in my mouth a little). You name it – I’ve probably seen it.
I’ve got nothing here – I just like trashy, low quality tv. John Hamm – please don’t hate me. I still love Don Draper.
1. Tween Music
It began when I was a tween – New Kids on the Block, Spice Girls Britney Spears, ‘N Sync, Back Street Boys and 98°. It then progressed to Hanson, Mandy Moore and Jessica Simpson. Lindsay Lohan, Jesse McCartney and Hilary Duff rounded things out as I ended the teenage chapter of my life and entered my 20s. Unfortunately, my love of the tween pop sensation stayed with me. Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, the Cast of High School Musical, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber all make regular appearances on my iPod.
And now, there’s Carly Rae.
Please don’t judge me.
Matt and I have never really been big into Valentine’s Day gifts. For the past few years, we have been going out to breakfast on Valentine’s Day before work – a fun tradition that I hope to continue for years to come. However, just because I don’t expect gifts, it doesn’t mean I can’t create an awesome “wish list” for all you readers. (You are welcome to all the boyfriends who read my blog and have no idea what to get their sweeties this Valentines Day – I am pretty sure than any of these gifts would be a slam dunk.
Jewelery: Matt has a theory that once a girl has one pair of earings, one necklace, one bracelet and one ring – she is set. Unfortunately for me, he has purchased each of these during our 10 year long relationship, so the potential for me to receive jewelery as a gift in the future is basically zero. Well, I’m here to tell you – his theory is wrong. A girl can NEVER have enough jewelery – the more options she has, the better! Here are a few of my favorite pieces.
Rose Gold Watch: I had asked Matt for a rose gold watch for Christmas. He found the idea of picking this out way too overwhelming (I guess I can’t blame him). Here are a few of my favorites – the gift of time is a classic.
“On Trend” Gifts: If you want to seem trendy but don’t want to spend hours reading through InStyle, Elle and fashion blogs, here are a few options for you.
A Quick History Lesson
Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, often at 4 a.m., or earlier, and offer promotional sales to kick off the shopping season. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005.
The day’s name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1966 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that “Black Friday” indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are “in the black”.
For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00, but in the late 2000s, many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers (including Target, Kohls, Macy’s, Best Buy, and Bealls) will open at midnight for the first time. Walmart will open at 10:00 on Thanksgiving night and Toys ‘R’ Us at 9:00. In 2010, Sears was open on Thanksgiving day.
And Now the Fun Part
In the days before the internet, shoppers relied on television commercials and newspaper ads that came out on Thanksgiving to alert them to the “door buster” specials and “one day sales” that took place on Black Friday. Now, with a few clicks of a mouse, shoppers can arm themselves with coupons, sale information and even participate in the madness without leaving their home.
Already, some deals have begun (see Amazon’s week long sale and Walmart’s pre-Black Friday sales). For me though, the real fun is being out among the masses. Just seeing folks running through the mall while carrying armloads of shopping bags gives me joy. The added benefit of picking up a few items on sale is just icing on the cake.
There are a lot of websites the comb the internet and put all of the sales in one place. These are a great resource, especially if you don’t get a local paper delivered to your house that contains the store circulars.
Black Friday News
Black Friday Ads
Black Friday Info
Coupon Sherpa (Contains store opening times)
Top Ten Black Friday Blogs (lists some of these sites plus more)
Ask Men (Lists out the top 10 best Black Friday Deals)
If you’re not Facebook “Friends” with your favorite retailers, now’s the time to “Like” these retailers. More retailers are going social, offering special discount codes to preferred friends on Facebook and Twitter. “It’s a good idea to add your favorite stores to your friend list — at least for the time being,” he says. Retailers like the Gap are even providing Facebook Credit as rewards to users who sign up for its email newsletter.
Another new trend consumers can take advantage of to make the most of leaving the house Black Friday is the explosion of mobile apps that enhance the shopping experience. Keep your smartphone at the ready on the big day to fact-check any deals before purchasing. The best app for price-scanning: Red Laser. And the best app for mobile coupons: Coupon Sherpa. With the Holiday Gift List app you can track your spending and stick to your budget while FourSquare can help you take advantage of local sales and deals based on location, or even freebie restaurant offers of cheap coffee breaks during your shopping spree.
Compare prices. According to ConsumerAffairs.com, Consumer Reports found an electric percolator “on sale” at Kohl’s stores and Kohls.com for $61.99, a discount from the regular $69.99. But those prices are higher than the $59.99 manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Using a Web search, CR found better deals. The best price was $30.03 plus $8.21 shipping at Sale Stores.
Check reviews on sites such as Cnet and make sure you’re clear on the features of those electronics that you are considering. Black Friday is all about rock-bottom prices on no-name goods (or those that aren’t so familiar). That’s fine if it’s not going to be your primary TV, or if you only need a limited number of features on that Blu-ray player.
Look for coupons. Once you know what items you intend to purchase and the stores offering these products for a great price, see who will sweeten the deal. Department stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s regularly offer coupons that can take an additional 20% to 30% off sale prices. And many online retailers allow you to stack percentage-off or free shipping coupon codes on top of Black Friday prices, making one seller’s price for that cashmere sweater cheaper in the long run. You can find coupon codes on sites such as Gottadeal.com, eDeals.com, Slickdeals and RetailMeNot.
Good luck and Godspeed! Please eeport back on any incredible deals you may find (or hilarious stories you may experience!)
Oprah has her list of favorite things. Ellen has 12 days of giveaways. Rachael Ray has her ThanksGIVE-AWAY. And now, I have my own. Don’t be confused, this is not my Christmas wish list – but rather a list of products that I love, some I own, some I have given as gifts. Either way, I am excited to announce my first annual Wish List!
The Little Things Wish List
Yes, this is on Oprah’s list too, but I have been a fan of this jewelry, particularly their necklaces for a long time. By sister first introduced me to this wonderful online jewelry box and since that time I have given necklaces as presents to many friends and family members.
I love the holidays because it is the one time of the year where you can dress up like a 5-year-old ballerina and totally get away with it. Here are a few of my choice sparkly pieces.
A few years ago Matt’s parents gave him a Kindle. To be honest, neither of us really wanted a Kindle. At that time, we were in the “I love turning the page” camp. Well needless to say, after reading one book on it I was in love. I quickly adopted the Kindle as my own. Matt is currently reading the Hunger Games on it now and I have a feeling he might become hooked – both with the series and the Kindle. And with their ridiculously low prices it is a great present. I have demo-ed the Kindle Fire at work and I have to say, while it is much smaller than the iPad, it is pretty sick.
I love Erin Condren for stationary and cards – I even ordered some holiday labels to attach to presents this year! But I absolutely love the personalized iPhone cases that they added to their product roster this year.
I absolutely love buying things on Etsy. Supporting the “little guy” always feel so much better than going to big chain stores and the customer service and care that goes into this products is always amazing. The wooden signs that Andrea Chapman creates and adorable and add just the right amount of inspiration and holiday cheer to those little nooks and crannies on your bookshelf of office desk. LOVE these!
Decorating for the holidays is one of my most favorite things to do. Growing up, the day after Thanksgiving was almost a bigger deal that Thanksgiving. We would often wake up and participate in the madness that is Black Friday – not so much for the sales (although, we usually found some pretty good ones) but more for the experience. Then we would spend the afternoon putting up hundreds of holiday decorates. By the end of the day, our house would be turned into a winter wonderland! Abby and I have tried to carry on this tradition in our own homes, but it will take some time before we build up a bounty of decorations that rivals our mom’s. I try to keep my holiday decorating “classy” – my fake Christmas tree has white lights and all silvery/glitter ornaments. Crate and Barrel has great decorations that you can use year after year that don’t make your house look like the scene Santa’s Village in you your local mall. I bought these for Matt’s mom last year. They are especially good because you can keep them up all winter long!
Abby’s Recommendation: Custom NikeiD Running Shoes
These are an incredible gift because the shoes can fit any personality. With the ability to select your shoe style, colors and patterns, designing the shoe is just as great as wearing them. Plus you can put your name on them (or anything for that matter) so no pair is alike. With NikeiD gift cards, you can give the gift of creativity and fitness!
With this watch you can turn a jog in the park into a highly calculated training run. By tracking your distance, time and elevation you are armed with all of the information to improve your running.
Last week I passed an important milestone; my blog, Focus on the Little Things, celebrated its first anniversary. My first post was written on March 2nd, 2010 as I was seating on the couch contemplating my life. I had become so wrapped up in the negative aspects that I was unable to see the countless positive things I had. Thankfully one year later, I was so busy enjoying my life that I didn’t even realize a year had passed.This past year has gone by so quickly and I am certainly in a much better place now than I was last year.
I have found a job that makes me excited to out of bed in the morning. I believe so passionately in the work that I am doing and the organization’s mission. I work with people who have high expectations for me and for themselves and people who strive to make a difference in the way other people live their lives. I am proud to say that I work for Robin Hood.
Matt and I are getting ready to celebrate our wedding in less than four months. And while the planning process got off to a rocky start, things are smooth sailing from now until the big day. Just this morning we were able to check off the last “big ticket item” on our checklist. We can not wait to celebrate this occasion with our friends and family. Already the excitement that other people have shared with us, particularly the two amazing people planning my shower, has been incredible. It is such a good feeling to know that so many other people are just as excited as we are, for us to get married.
After two and a half years, I am slowly starting to adjust to life in New York. No, I am not a Yankees fan, and never will be. But I have come to terms with the fact that Matt and I don’t live in Boston, and probably won’t in the near future. Instead of focusing on the things that I like about Boston that New York lacks, I am trying to focus on the things that New York has that I do like. These things include the following: Central Park, Bleeker Street Pizza, the fact that the Today Show is my local news, Union Square farmers market, Matt Kinsella, riding my bike to Piermont, Rubix Kube and frequent visitors.
This year has been incredible. I owe that to my family, friends and of course Matt. I couldn’t imagine a life without him. He has truly helped me focus on the little things, and sometimes the big things, that make life so amazing.
So thanks for following along… hold on tight, this year is sure to be a good one.
Every year over April vacation, Abby, my mom and I would visit my grandparents in Jupiter, Florida. My grandparents were incredibly smart for moving to Florida when they did. Although Florida is not very close to New Hampshire, limiting the number of times we actually saw them each year, the draws of Florida – the beach, warm weather and super cute boy who lived next door to their house, were enough to keep us coming back year after year. If they had stayed in Ohio, I must admit, I wouldn’t have been as excited to visit. Instead of body surfing at the beach, we would have been shucking corn and tipping cows.
Some of my favorite things about visit my grandparents were things that we did nearly ever year. We would always go to the Palm Beach Mall and have a mini-shopping spree at The Limited Too. Later, when we entered high school, we would get our prom dresses during this trip. The local school had their prom the week before our visit, so we were able to score amazing deals on some pretty nice dresses.
Abby and I ate many meals aboard our grandparent’s boat, “JeBo.” We would make sandwiches, PB & J for Abby, PB & banana for me, and sit aboard the board munching away. It was like the boat was our very own club house, almost making up for the fact that my dad never built us the treehouse he promised. Every year, my grandfather would take us for a ride in the boat to see the new developments around the intercostal. During one trip,with the boat nearing the end of its life, the engine died in the middle of our ride and my dad and grandfather were forced to paddle us back to their dock. But that was not nearly as adventurous as the time their neighbor’s massive yacht became untied from their dock and started drifting towards our dock. For some reason, I remember Abby swimming over to the boat and climbing aboard – I am not sure what happened next, or if this actually happened. I did have a wild imagination as a child…
Abby and I spent a lot of time swimming in the bay in front of our grandparents house. We would blow up rafts and inner tubes, and see who could stand on them the longest without falling in the water. At the end of the bay, there was a mangrove island, no more than 150 yards away. When Abby was 7 years old, she decided she was going to swim out to this island. My dad jumped in the inflatable row-boat and paddled along besides her as she bravely made her way out to the island and back. When she returned, my grandfather gave her a sliver dollar for accomplishing this feat. Year after year, when we returned to their house, my grandfather would ask me if I was ready to make the same swim. Not until I was 21 years old did I actually do it; and I was freaking out the entire time. Sadly, I never received a silver dollar for my feat of bravery…
The memory that stands out the most in my mind was the time we spent every morning during breakfast. When we came to visit, my grandfather would go out and buy fresh Florida oranges and grapefruit. Every morning we had the choice of a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, or a small glass of OJ and half of a grapefruit, pre-cut and ready to eat. Abby and I ALWAYS took the second option. We would take a few sips of the juice, then scoop away at the grapefruit, and then squeeze the juice into our 1/2 empty OJ glass creating a mixture of OJ and Grapefruit juice. It was a morning ritual that I wouldn’t give up for anything.
It wasn’t until I was probably 14 or 15 that I realized grapefruits didn’t come pre-cut. It was a sad reality to learn than in order to enjoy this delicious treat, I had to spent the time cutting around each and every section of grapefruit. It goes without saying, that because of this, grapefruit isn’t something that I have incorporated into my daily diet.
Last night, while shopping for my quinoa at Whole Foods, I spotting some big and delicious looking grapefruit. I decided to buy a few and try my hand in preparing this fruit as a mid-morning snack. Well, after 15 minutes of cutting, slicing and scooping, my desire for the sweet fruit was realized. I finished with sticky hands and grapefruit juice running all over my desk. Was it worth it? Yes… but I would give anything to have my grandfather live next door and deliver a perfectly sliced grapefruit to my door every morning.
What do you say grandpa? I think there are some one-bedrooms open in my apartment. Ready for life in the big city?
Since Matt and I got engaged, I have become obsessed with weddings. Not only the process of planning my own wedding, but reading about other weddings, wedding vendors and looking at countless photographs. The main “feeders” of my addiction are wedding blogs: Once Wed, Snippet and Ink, and 100 Layer Cake. These are far and away the best wedding blogs out there. I also purchases a lot of bridal magazines when we first started the planning process, but now I limit my reading to the Martha Stewart Wedding magazine that arrives in my mail box every month.
While my father certainly sees this as an addiction, I see it more an informal research. Who knows when this will come in handy again. Knowing when it is appropriate to mail out save the dates (roughly six – seven months before the wedding), how many people to invite to your shower (only people who are invited to the wedding should be considered) and what are the Best Man’s responsibilities (throw the bachelor party, carry the rings – unless there is a ring bearer, and make sure the Groom actually shows up on time)! These are all crucial things that everyone should probably know.
In addition, I have learned that as a wedding guest you never wear white, always show up on time, don’t take pictures during the ceremony, RSVP promptly and send gifts either before or after the wedding – don’t bring it to the wedding. And while my list of “wedding guest skills” doesn’t include amazing dance moves, it does include, “amazing gift giver.”
As I wrote about earlier (see previous post) I have a talent for finding deals, especially when it comes to wedding presents. I am happy, yet slightly embarrassed to say, that I put these skills to use yesterday.
Conversation with Jamie (one of my bridesmaids):
Me: I am the best wedding guest ever.
Me: Because I find deals and buy sick wedding presents.
Jamie: That does make you a good wedding guest. I can’t wait to invite you to my wedding.
Me: Yes, agreed. I am happy I invited myself to my own wedding. And I just bought myself two of my place settings as a gift.
Jamie: Umm, what?
Me: They were on sale at Macy’s… buy one place setting, get another free! That is just too good to pass up.
Jamie: That is a good deal, but I think the whole point of a wedding registry is to have OTHER people buy you presents.
Me: It is? Interesting…
Thank you Macy’s for randomly deciding the carry a limited amount of my china, at an incredible discount.
And for those of you who hate shopping and never know what to get off the registry, my services are available on a consultation basis.
After the turkey has been carved, the parade has passed Macy’s on 34th street and the relatives return home we come back to work on Monday, a little rounder around the belly. While we have enjoyed time away from the office, many people will return to work exhausted from the holiday festivities. And this is only the beginning. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we can focus on the remainder of the holiday season. For many of us, this means stringing lights, hanging ornaments and breaking out the Christmas music. It is the most wonderful time of the year and sometimes the most tiring. However, I for one, think it is entirely worth it.
After Thanksgiving, my mom sister and I participated in the craziness that is Black Friday. While my mom and Abby stocked up on Christmas presents for nearly everyone on their list, I concentrated on myself (talk about holiday spirit). As they walked around the store finding things for cousins, aunts, grandparents and friends, I walked around the stores picking up things for myself. This year, I am having a hard time coming up with good ideas for presents, and since I know what I want, it was simply easier to shop for myself. And clearly, I was trying to make the most out of the great sales! Unfortunately, when we returned and looked at our purchases, I realized that I was no closer to being complete with holiday shopping.
So now I am sitting at work, scanning the websites of stores. Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday immediately following Black Friday, the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The term made its debut on November 28, 2005 in a Shop.org press release entitled “‘Cyber Monday’ Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year”. In 2009, it was reported that consumers spent $887M online on Cyber Monday (excluding travel), the second highest spending day of 2009. Data has shown that Cyber Monday online sales have always been driven by considerable buying activity from work locations. That pattern hasn’t changed. After returning from the long Thanksgiving weekend with a lot of holiday shopping still ahead of them, many consumers tend to continue their holiday shopping from work. Whether to take advantage of the extensive Cyber Monday deals offered by retailers or to buy gifts away from the prying eyes of family members, this day has become an annual ritual for America’s online holiday shoppers.
So for anyone else who is sitting at work scanning the sales, here are some of the top deals going on right this very instant. So make yourself some hot chocolate, set your Pandora to Christmas music and let the festivities begin! (Please note that the first three sites are all part of my registry – what a strange coincidence!)
Houseware giant Crate & Barrel is offering 25% off on all kinds of items, across the store, from martini glasses to starter dining sets.
The magic of Macy’s includes clothing, jewelry, home goods and kitchen tools. Just enter the code “CYBER” into the coupon code before checking out.
Great gifts for all of those outdoorsy relatives. Check out the steep discounts on Padagonia jackets and Smart Wool socks. Just in time for winter!
Retail giant Kohl’s slashes prices on its site 35% to 60%, on everything from watches and jewelry to outerwear and home goods.
For the fashionista on your list. Use code “ENJOY” at checkout.
Victoria Secret is offering up to 70% off select bras, underwear and sleepwear. Shoppers who buy sleepwear will receive a free pair of slippers if they use the code VS10SLEEP at checkout–and anyone can receive free shipping on their order if they enter the code SHIPVS1. Get your holiday jammies before it is too late!
Check out these sites for other great deals: