Unique Gift Ideas for Christmas

Gift ImageChristmas shopping for me last year was beyond stressful.  My loved ones had supported me emotionally, mentally, and more all year.  But what could I give them that would say, “Hey, I love you”? What could I possibly get that either, a) they didn’t already have or b) that would not be just another thing for them to put in their closet or house and be forgotten?

I was tired of giving away “things” to other people, things that did not matter and had little significance to them other than another addition to their pile of “stuff.” As I was pondering gift ideas, I remembered a date night idea I had a few months earlier: a cooking class. I began to look at different events taking place in my city and realized that the perfect gift was:

The gift of experience. 

My husband and I decided to buy a cooking class for his parents who were experimenting with being vegan. They loved it! In fact, everyone we gave a gift to last year were beyond happy. In order to spread the Christmas joy, I would like to share with you ten unique gift ideas that would make your family and friends think of you as their Santa Claus.

  1. A cooking class. There are various types of cooking classes you can take, with focuses on appetizers, desserts, spices, Thai food, meatless dishes, etc. While some classes can be expensive, if you shop around, you can find different classes that fit your budget.
  2.  A crafts/design class (sewing, jewelry making, upholstery, decoration). For my sister-in-law’s birthday, I gave her a short class on making jewelry.  I brought the tools and jewelry making books and she took to it quickly and beautifully.
  3. A concert. What better present could you get or give than a night relaxing while enjoying some of your favorite music? Make this an extra special night by including dinner.
  4. A day at the spa/massage (a couple’s massage works too). I love going to the spa. I go in with all this tension I did not know I had and come out feeling relaxed, beautiful, and happy.
  5. An activity such as a Zip line. Have you ever Zip lined across a valley? Wow! What a rush! At first you’re scared because of the heights or the newness of it, but then you start going and it’s a pure adrenaline rush. This could be the perfect gift for the adrenaline junkie in your life.
  6. A personal trainer. Most people gain weight or become their unhealthiest during the holiday season. Although I believe you can enjoy the holidays without overindulging, I know it’s hard to resist all the goodies around you.  What better way for them to start the New Year than to hit the ground running.  Get them a personal trainer at their gym or find one through your local classified ads.
  7.  A chocolate/cheese tasting event. Chocolate and cheese; need I say more?
  8. A dance class. This is one gift I would love to receive.  I love to dance and would not mind learning a few new steps.  Dancing makes me feel alive, sexy, and beautiful.
  9. A trip. This need not break the bank.  If you book a trip far enough in advance, a trip can be pretty affordable.  Alternatively, a cruise is cheaper the closer to the trip you get your tickets as they are trying to fill up all their cabins.
  10. Time. Time is the most precious commodity we have.  What better way can you show someone you love them than by giving them the gift of your time? Take the time to do something they enjoy with them.  It could be as simple as dinner.  My sister is an extremely busy woman and so nothing means more to me than when she takes the time to just be with me.  I know it’s a sacrifice for her but she makes me feel like she would rather be there in the moment with me than anywhere else.  If you are going to take the time for them, then take the time. Be mentally as well as physically there with your loved ones.

What experience have you enjoyed or have given as a gift?

laureen headshotBIO: Laureen is a freelance writer with a background in medicine. Although writing has always been her passion it was not until she was having a “how we want to raise our children” discussion with her husband that she came to an interesting realization; how could she teach her children to follow their dreams ambitiously when she was not living her own? At that point she started her writing career.  She recently started a website to help others gain clarity for their lives and business at 2clarify.com.

Rustic back yard wedding | wedding stylist

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At the end of the summer, Joseph and Felicia had a rustic back yard wedding reception in Vancouver, Canada and I had the pleasure of being the event stylist and calligrapher. It was such a perfect day for a back yard wedding! The low light was so lovely and romantic.

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They had a vintage, shabby chic vision with burlap, hay bales, twine covered Mason jars, ferns, and chalkboard sign accents.

backyard reception by dave choo

Photo by Dave Choo

Here’s to the happy hipster couple!

6 Quick Tips for Posing for Pictures

Recently someone on Facebook asked me for tips about how to pose for pictures. Though I’m no Gisele Bundchen, I have modeled, can boast a billboard under my belt, and as an image consultant / wardrobe stylist, I know a thing or two about helping people feel comfortable in front of the camera. So if you’re looking for suggestions for an upcoming photo shoot, here’s 6 quick tips for posing for pictures.

  1. Keep moving. If you’re doing a photo shoot, every time you hear the shutter lens, change your pose slightly. A few suggestions to change your pose is to lower your chin, pop your shoulder up, tilt your head, put your hand on your hip, change the juxtaposition of your feet, vary your facial expression, just keep moving! You’ll have far more options to choose from when you see your photos. This photo series from Audrey Hepburn is a great example. Sometimes all it takes is a slight movement to make the perfect picture.
  2. Practice posing. A few years ago I was on the set with a new model who was having a hard time working the camera, so the art director had her grab a magazine for inspiration and start practicing posing in front of the mirror! I would extend the same advice to you. Grab a magazine, look for poses you’d like to try, then get in front of a mirror and see and whether the pose works for you. (I have a whole Pinboard on Pinterest called “Girl Can Pose”which is filled with different pose ideas. Follow away!) These images from fashion photographer Trever Hoehne are lovely, natural poses to try.
  3. Try new things. When editing my most recent Wear One Piece Five Ways segment, there were a couple new poses I haven’t tried before that found their way into the mix — I loved the results! We get so comfortable in the same poses, but it’s always refreshing to mix things up a bit. Take some of the things you’ve been practicing in the mirror (a la tip #2) and try to introduce them in front of the camera. It’s important to have a photographer you feel comfortable with so you feel safe to step outside of your comfort zone. 
  4. Stand up straight. They say the camera adds 10 pounds, and good posture can make you look 10 pounds less so make sure you stand up straight! Elevate that carriage! Inhale deep through your nose and lift your breast bone. (Sidebar: don’t stop breathing when the camera clicks! I can actually tell on images where I completely freeze a pose for the camera, including my breath. It’s far more natural when you keep breathing while having your picture taken.) 
  5. Whatever part of your body is closest to the camera will appear larger. This can be in your favor if you want to maximize your jawline or bust. On the flip side, if you want to minimize a figure variation such as your hips, derriere, or arms, angle this area away from the camera — the area in question will look smaller in the photo as a result. A bad example of what not to do is Fo from America’s Next Top Model Cycle 12. By leaning towards the camera, Fo’s head and face look larger while the rest of her body appears smaller and short. This is the shot that sent her packing.
  6. When all else fails, turn at an angle to the camera and smile! For a slimming effect, standing at a 45 degree angle to the camera, put your hand on one hip and smile. It works practically every time!

    Photo: Elisabeth Kate Photography. Styling by Cable Car Couture

What is your best tip for posing for photographs?

The Best Scone Recipe Ever – Grand Central Bakery

I’ve never been much of a scone person, but this week I went to Grand Central Bakery in town, went out on a limb and tried their cranberry nut scone. I was stopped in my tracks. Who knew scones could be so decadent?

Once I had one, I had to have more. So I googled “Grand Central Bakery scone recipe” and lo and behold, I found their recipe on Serious Eats. So I made a batch. And was tempted to make another. They were unbelievable. (So good we didn’t share) But karma being what it is, I’m sharing the recipe with you so you can have mouth-watering scones for breakfast, too. It’s up to you whether you share.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces, or 1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup nuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) buttermilk
  • Egg wash
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) turbinado sugar
  • Egg Wash
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Pinch of salt

Procedures

  1. Prepare to bake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients: Measure the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon into a bowl with high sides or the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine.
  3. Cut in the butter, then add the fruit and nuts: Dice the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Use your hands or the paddle attachment of the stand mixer on low speed to blend the butter into the dry ingredients until the pieces of butter are the size of almonds. Add the dried fruit and nuts.
  4. Add the eggs and buttermilk: Whisk the eggs and buttermilk together, then add two-thirds of the mixture to the dry ingredients. Gently mix the dough just until it comes together, then add the remaining buttermilk mixture; the dough will look rough. Scrape the dough from the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again to incorporate any floury scraps. The majority of the dough will have come together, on the paddle if using a stand mixer. Stop mixing while there are still visible chunks of butter and floury patches. The dough should come out of the bowl in one piece, leaving only some small scraps and flour on the sides.
  5. Form and cut the dough: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gather it and pat just a few times to get it to come together. The top won’t be smooth, but the rough surface creates a crunch that is part of a scone’s charm. Gently form dough into a 7- to 8-inch disk (or, for smaller scones, into two 4- to 5-inch disks), brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cut the disk into 6 wedges, like a pie.
  6. Bake: Place the scones on the prepared pan, in a grid with 3 by 2 for large scones and 4 by 3 for small scones. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (20 to 25 minutes for small scones), rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The scones should be golden brown.

7 Ways to Integrate Orange Into Your Life in 2012

Orange is the new black. As you likely know, Pantone declared Tangerine Tango the color of 2012. If you aren’t an orange ambassador, here are 7 ways you can integrate orange into your life in 2012.

Orange isn’t just for wearing! Make orange a part of your home decor this year.

Eyeballing that tangerine chevron wall art? Here’s a guided tutorial on creating your own chevron stripe wall art.

Want more fashion videos? Let us know if you have a video topic request!

Motivation Monday: Cristina Hall Dances Blackbird

Cristina Hall is a flamenco dancer and pioneer in her field. Here is a video of her dancing an original contemporary flamenco choreography to Nina Simone’s Blackbird. Prepare to be astounded. I have watched this flamenco performance several times and it leaves me enraptured with goosebumps every single time.

As an amateur flamenco dancer, I am deeply inspired by the exquisite control that Cirstina has over her body, allowing her to produce such a mesmerizing live performance. Honestly, I can’t stop watching.

This isn’t the product of procrastination. You can tell she has devoted countless hours to honing her art. May we be inspired to do the same.

DIY Chevron Wall Art Tutorial

Since January is national craft month and 2012’s color of the year is Tangerine Tango, here is a DIY chevron wall art tutorial that honors them both.

Our new house still has a lot of bare walls, so I decided some chevron wall art would be perfect. After consulting a chevron tutorial by Apartment Therapy and Room by Room, I felt ready to roll up my sleeves and get going.

Items Needed:

  • 2 x 4 from Lowe’s or Home Depot
  • Paint tape
  • Gesso
  • Two paint colors of your choice
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Eraser

I started by doing a preliminary sketch on a smaller piece of paper to get the measurements scaled out and right.

Gesso your 2 x 4. This will prime your board and prevent the paint from staining into the wood. Gesso is available at Joann’s or your local art supply store.

Once your board is primed, paint the board your neutral color. For my project, I used an Antique White acrylic paint that was on sale for 89 cents. After this paint dries, you can start your measurements. As a right brained creative gal, this was the hardest part for me as it required a more analytical approach than I’m used to.

After you have measured to the best of your ability, lay down the tape. Since your base color is already laid down, you will be taping in order to alternate the color for each stripe. It should look like you’re painting a long stripe, followed by a short stripe that you won’t paint.

Once the board is taped, it should look like this. Note: It’s smart to try to erase as many of the pencil marks as you can, especially if you are painting with lighter colors.

When trying to decide what color I was going to use, I painted some chevron stripes on some blank paper to see what it would look like. Out of the colors I liked including a blush-like mauve, a coral, and tangerine, I went with tangerine. Looking at the tangerine color completely lifted my spirits!

Now the fun part — paint! If you paint outside the lines (as I did), don’t worry. You should have a little leftover paint of your first color that you can touch up afterwards.

Then let the paint dry. Go out for dinner. It will be dry by the time you get back. Once we returned home, the art was rather reminiscent of a Nemo clown fish with its vibrant, tropical colors.

Carefully peel the tape off.

Voila!

Then hang it somewhere you need a statement.

Have you done a chevron stripe project before? Let me know how it turned out.

Pinterest: Navajo Fashion Trend

The Navajo fashion trend is one of my recent favorites, one that is coming out in my closet as well as my home decor. Something about the bright vivid colors and the geometric shapes has totally won me over… not to mention my latest Native American obsession.Here are some phenomenal Navajo themed pins I happened upon this week on Pinterest. (Psst! Are we connected on Pinterest yet?)

This is my fave Navajo tee. <3

Have you gotten into the Navajo fashion trend?

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