2014 Holiday Gift Guide

giftguide

I love reading holiday gift guides… I always get some great ideas that I would never have known about on my own. This year, I thought I would do one of my own since I’ve been coming across such amazing products that would be perfect this holiday season. FYI… I was NOT paid for promoting any of these and I will absolutely let you know if I received any to try out below. Some I did, some I didn’t.

snowflake

logo

Category_Icons2

How adorable are these? Steezys are charms that you purchase individually and fit easily on your headphone cords. When I first saw these, I thought they were so brilliant. My kids are addicted to their iPhones and they are always scrounging around for their earbuds. With Steezys, they can have their own charms that are not only pretty adorable, but they can identify each other’s cords when they are all thrown together in a bag somewhere.

The charms are $4.50 each so you can buy several at a time. I was sent a selection of them to try out (I don’t promote anything I don’t absolutely love) and these were just so fabulous.

snowflake

title_logo2

I don’t celebrate Christmas, but if I did, I would be buying my kids a new ornament every year. These are handmade by an amazing friend of mine, Heather Atkinson at Baby, Bump & Beyond, and are really special. They are all custom done when you order and are affordable (between $12 – $14). Plus, you will be helping out a small, woman-owned business.

ornaments

snowflake

iusb_760x100.14194204_an3a

A few weeks ago I was shopping at a local holiday boutique when I came across Lori Koza’s amazing bags and bows. My kids fell in love with her unique bags made out of snack food packaging. The bags are coated in vinyl to make them extra sturdy… and extra waterproof. They are coated inside and out and will only run you $20. The perfect gift for a young girl… or a serious Hello Kitty fan.

bags

snowflake

ejhlogo

I met the owner and creator of EJH Brand last year and her products are so unique and special that this is definitely the gift to give when you want to go out-of-the-box. Elana creates these designs by hand and prints them on candles, pillows, stationary and limited edition framed prints. Products run from $26 – $375 so there is something in every price point. I did receive a signature candle from Elana to sample (which I love) and you will be supporting a small, woman-owned business that is based in Los Angeles.

ejh

snowflake

search

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 7.48.02 PM

Did you know that Etsy had gift cards? Woo Hoo! I didn’t until I came across one. My big dilemma with Etsy is that I find way too many things I want to buy. When you know that someone would love a homemade gift, but you aren’t that crafty or creative yourself, an Etsy gift card would be the perfect gift. Personally, I would love to get one. Hint hint.

snowflake

946224_10151701502044920_863299423_n

I am loving Zazzle! If you don’t know about this awesome site… go now! And then come back, of course. They have gifts for EVERY occassion and EVERY person… and if you absolutely don’t find what you are looking for, you can CREATE it yourself! They even have iPhone cases which is my pick since I’m pretty sure there will be a few people getting new iPhone 6’s and 6+’s this holiday.

iPhone6_Cases_Assorted_Wide.v1

I was offered a complimentary, custom iPhone 6 case and I’m just waiting for it to arrive. I previously had an iPhone 4 custom case from Zazzle, so I know how sturdy and protective they are. This would be fun for the Grandparents with the grandkids pictures on it, don’t you think? A custom iPhone case will run you approximately $39.95, depending on your actual phone and case style.

snowflake

Grapevine_Wine_Gift_01

Who couldn’t use one of these? A WINE PURSE! Come on, I’m sure we’ve all carried a bottle of wine around, and other than a paper bag (tacky), a wine purse makes perfect sense. Really… can you imagine opening this up with a bottle of wine already in it? I can!

GBPG-3020-NS-2T

The wine purse is sold for $24.99 and you can pair the gift with a corkscrew and a bottle of the recipient’s favorite wine. Or YOUR favorite wine and then you can share.

snowflake

logo Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 1.50.37 PM

Book-Shaped-Saucer-Stackable-Cup-300x300

I’m a huge fan of Gone Reading and have purchased from them in the past. I’ve been eyeing this cup and saucer for so long, I really just need to buy myself one. This is so perfect for anyone who loves to read. Can’t you imagine sitting down in the evening with a great book and a cup of tea? I can! The cup and saucer set is only $11.99 and the cups are stackable so you can purchase a set and have plenty of room in your cabinets.

snowflake

Those are my picks for gift giving this season. If you have a Holiday Gift Guide, I’d love for you to post the link in the comments so I can see what your favorite gifts are.


You at the Center – Turns Out I Really DID Need Some Life Coaching

Disclosure: I was offered a complimentary course by You @ the Center in exchange
for promotion. 
All opinions are entirely my own and I promise to be as open and honest
about this process as I possibly can.

logo-drop-shadow

I started my journey with You @ the Center over a month ago. In fact, today is DAY 48. It’s a 100 day course so I’m coming up on that halfway mark and believe it or not, I am definitely starting to see some changes. I spent an hour talking one-on-one with Rachel Davis (the creator behind You @ the Center) this morning and she was amazing in helping me clarify my goals and actions. I have learned so much in the past weeks and I am now convinced that anyone can benefit from a program like this. And no… she didn’t pay me to say that.

So… to give you some background (for those that don’t live with me). I spent 20 years in the interior design field in some respect: residential, commercial, hospitality, purchasing, until I gave it all up to stay home and raise my girls. When I started blogging, I found an entirely new career path… social media. I absorbed myself in this new endeavor and came out the other end with a 800+ women’s blog network, a part-time job leading blog campaigns, and a full-fledged start-up social media company (Social Elements Media) with the most amazing business partner anyone can have. To say I’m busy would be an understatement.

My biggest issue was how to manage everything when I still had a family to care for and a household to run. I was drowning in the day-to-day responsibilities of carpooling, laundry, meal preparations, shopping, and oh yea… WORK. Working from home is another whole puzzle. How exactly DO you draw the line between work time and home time when you never leave your house?

The You @ the Center program came along at the time when I needed it the most. But… it was 100 day commitment. 100 days is a long time. I mentioned above that I believe this program could be valuable for everyone. That doesn’t mean that everyone should take it though. I think the teacher shows up when the student is ready to learn. I know Rachel came to me when I was open to changing and moving forward. If this post is a sign that maybe it’s time for YOU to take the next step to a more sustainable life (I love that phrase) read on…

So you know where I come from, but this journey is all about where I am heading. What is my “end game?”

I want to continue growing this awesome social media business and making a difference for small business owners in realizing their dreams of prosperity. I want to be able to have time to devote to my husband and children in a meaningful way – not a few minutes here and there, but generate some real quality & quantity time with them. I want to have time for ME to do all the things that make ME happy. I don’t want to be so overloaded with stress and worry that my health suffers. I just KNOW that I can have ALL of this. As Rachel says, it’s all about the flow.

I’ve changed.

  • I sleep better at night because I know my plan for the next day. Each evening I look over my calendar and know exactly what the next day will hold for me and I plan out when I’m going to do each task. When you are prepared, you stress less.
  • I work smarter, not harder. I set aside several hours each day to focus on nothing else but my workload. I tune out the dirty laundry and the piling dishes and get done the work I need to accomplish for the day.
  • I have taken steps to organize the clutter that is my life. I take at least 30 minutes each day to file paperwork, organize my office, clean out the kitchen cabinets, sort through the closets. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, I break it down into small doable actions.
  • I focus more on what makes ME happy. I find 15 or 30 minutes here and there to read a book, purely for my own enjoyment. If possible, I carve out an hour in the evenings before bed to wind down and read a good book (except on Thursday nights… because Grey’s, Scandal and HTGAWM).

It all starts with baby steps.

I have found that as I am nearing towards that goal of being truly organized with my life, my life has given me back so many amazing rewards. The happier I am with my progress has translated into more clients and opportunities knocking down the door. And the more my life is in flow, the richer and more satisfied I feel.

Okay, remember I said that I’m only nearing that halfway mark in the course? If I’ve learned so much in the first half, I can’t imagine what my life will look like after the second half. I am excited to see where I end up.

More updates to follow.


The Books on my Nightstand

How many books do you have on your bedside table? I currently have 6.

books

Some I’ve read, others I’m getting ready to dive into. I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t have at least one book next to my bed. Doesn’t mean I always read them, but having a book around is my comfort zone.

A few months ago I started a pretty intensive life coaching class (more posts about this to come), and one thing that was front and center in the course is that I needed to start doing something for myself every day. Something that I enjoy, that grounded me. For me, that is reading. When you are reading a great book, it’s pretty hard to focus on anything else but the task at hand. It opens your mind to other things and lets your brain take a little break from the day-to-day work and family issues that normally take front and center.

It’s a pretty eclectic selection of books I have. I tend to like reading all different types of genres. I’ll read a novel one week and then I’ll switch to a self-help book. I wanted to share with you the ones I currently have.

1. On the top of the pile is Firegirl, by Tony Abbott. The other night, my 12 year old came into my room while I was reading another book and gave this one to me. She said I just had to read it. I actually enjoy reading the books my kids read… it gives me a better idea of what they enjoy, and it’s a great way to open up a dialogue with them. I’ve also recommended some of the book I enjoy to my girls… ones that I think will help with whatever situations they are currently dealing with.

2. The “Perfect” Parent, by Roma Khetarpal in next. Full disclosure: Roma is a client of mine. I can’t tell you the number of parenting books I’ve read over the years, but this one is truly different. It doesn’t tell you HOW to parent. It helps you realize that you’ve had the power to be “perfect” all along. It’s the type of book you keep next to your bed and refer to over and over again, depending on the current issues you are going through with your kids.

3. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand is a book I just finished reading. I wasn’t interested in it when it was first published, but it was my Book Club read this month and once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. I really love this book… and yes, the movie is coming out December 25th (directed by Angelina Jolie). This true story of Olympian runner Louis Zamperini is just incredible. It tells of his life growing up as a boy without much direction, to his climb to Olympic greatness, to his capture as a Japanese POW during World War II. It’s the kind of story that speaks to the human spirit.. and makes you treasure the life you have.

4. City of the Sun, by Juliana Maio. I was invited to hear Juliana speak a few weeks ago and I wasn’t able to attend. I was so interested in the topic of this book, however, that I actually requested a copy from the publicist. I rarely do that. The book is historical fiction (my favorite genre) and takes place amidst WWII in Egypt. Add the Jews and Nazis to the mix and I was definitely intrigued.

5. Embrace Your Magnificence, by Fabienne Frederickson was a NetGalley book that was offered to me a few months ago. I read through from cover to cover and it’s STILL sitting next to my bed. It’s the kind of self-help, spiritual book that you kind of want to keep close to you. I wrote a review already if you want to learn more.

6. Bread Alone, by Judi Hendricks is a book that was recommended by one of my author friends, Cindy Arora. Cindy’s book, Heartbreak Cake, was phenomenal and since I love anything having to do with food writing, I picked up Bread Alone, which was one of her favorites.

One of my goals is to read more, or should I say, one of my goals is to find the TIME to read more.

What books are on your list?


Giving Back with Fresh & Easy

This post has been sponsored by Fresh & Easy. All opinions are my own.

givingback_article

It’s Holiday Time!

Are you ready? I am so ready. Well, not totally ready, but I’m really excited to start my gift buying. I have so much to be thankful for this year and I really want to help by giving back some of the rewards I’ve been given. There are so many ways to help and it’s time to start thinking about it NOW. Don’t let this season go by without doing at least one thing to help out a person or family who isn’t as fortunate as you are. There is always somebody who is less fortunate than you are, don’t you think?

So I wanted to make it easy with a few tips on how to help.

  • When you are shopping for gifts for your kids or relatives, how about you pick up just one extra thing (and it doesn’t have to be expensive) to drop in the Gift Donation Box that many stores have this time of year. Seriously… a $5 Barbie Doll or a deck of cards, or an inexpensive gift basket with flavored lip gloss. There are so many possibilities… just doe ONE thing.
  • Gift cards are great. If you pick up a few extra, you can hand those out to some families that you know could use a little extra help. Drop them in your neighbor’s mailbox… or send one home in a child’s backpack (if you don’t want to make a big deal out of giving it to the parents).
  • Extra change jiggling around in your pocket? Consider dropping a handful into the collection buckets outside of your favorite store. It might not seem like much to you, but combined with all the other shopper’s pocket change, it can make a difference in a family’s life.
  • Extra coats, boots and gloves? How about you drop them off at a local shelter. They are always in need of warm things for women and children especially.
  • At our school, we have a holiday tree with gift tags on it that any parent can choose and purchase the gift that is listed on the tag. These gifts will be given to a family at school who is having a really hard time this year. The family gets exactly the gifts they really want… and it’s anonymous. You won’t know who the family is, and they won’t know who gave them the gifts. It’s so awesome!

Of course, one of the most important things you can do at this time is donate food. Don’t know what to give or where to give it? Fresh & Easy is going to make this SO easy for you this year.

F&E

They began their program on November 5th and it will run through December 25. ALL the Fresh & Easy stores will be selling GIVING BACK BAGS for $10.00 each.

F&E2

Each bag will have 13 essential, non-perishable food items (things like cereal bars, tuna, canned vegetables, etc.). You can either take the bag with you to donate to a family or charity organization of your choice, OR you can let Fresh & Easy donate the bag to their store’s local food bank. THIS COULDN’T BE EASIER!

F&E3

This is kind of a no-brainer. Stop into any Fresh & Easy store, pick up some amazing pre-packed food for dinner, and for an extra $10 you can make someone else’s holiday a little better. Being charitable this season couldn’t be any easier.F&E4

 


Get Thicker Hair #MoreIsBeautiful

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
#MoreisBeautiful #CollectiveBias

rogaine2

If I could change one thing about myself, it would probably be to have thicker hair. Yep… I want my daughters’ hair. Gorgeous, un-processed, un-colored, thick, natural, beautiful hair. I used to have that. Sometime ago before I knew that with age comes thinning hair. Oh, I know, not for everyone… but my hair is NOT what it used to be and it is not something I am happy about.

Do you ever brush your hair in the morning and wonder where on earth all that hair comes from that you end up balling up from the bristles of the hairbrush? I’m pretty sure I could have an entire other head of hair if I could figure out how to just get it back into the hair follicles in my head. Sigh. Okay, maybe that’s not going to happen, but I still can’t give up the dream of having thicker hair.

haircollage

Enter Rogaine for Women. I know, crazy right? You hear about Rogaine for Men all the time, but now it’s available for women too. The best part is that you can purchase it in Walmart without having to order it online or from an infomercial.

rogaine

How does it work? It’s pretty simple, actually. The product is a foam that you massage into your scalp with your fingers once a day. You use it on dry hair, so you can take your shower, style your hair as usual and THEN use it. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t make your hair wet and you don’t need to restyle anything. It dries really fast and you won’t know it’s there. I used mine in the evening just because I made it part of my nighttime routine.

I got so sick of all the hair products I’ve been using to try and make my hair look thicker and healthier.

hairproducts

I mean… really? I refuse to have a receding hairline. Ugh! BRING BACK MY HAIR!

scalpcollage

I do want to share that using Johnson & Johnson Rogaine is NOT a quick fix. If you use daily, you might start to see results at around 3 months. For some women, it might take up to 6 months to see results. Considering you’re losing your hair anyway… it’s something worth trying. It’s something that happens to so many of us and it doesn’t come up in normal conversation. Honestly… it’s time to stop being embarrassed by something that is so wide-spread and actually DO something about it. If you have any questions about the product, you can call 1-800-Rogaine and get your questions answered.

Who wouldn’t want thicker, more beautiful hair? I sure do! #moreisbeautiful #shop #collectivebias #cbias #haircare

A video posted by Carolyn West (@carolynrwest) on