Gifts That Give Back Under $50

Happy Sunday! We’re in the home stretch now for holiday shopping, especially if you’re planning to purchase items online. In my second gift guide, you will find items that folks ranging from foodies to techies will love. My favorites? The Giving Keys sweatshirt and the LSTN wooden headphones. Check out the roundup below.

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1. This book is what happens when celeb chefs unite for children, $26

2. A must-have item for the resident do-gooder in your crew, $50

3. Of course charity:water designed a cool wooden phone case, $35

4. How about pairing these winter mugs with a hot cocoa kit, $48

5. These six lip colors help support the MAC AIDS Fund, $40

6. Smell good and do good with this perfume from Clinique, $38

7. Give the gift of snuggle with a cute throw, $30

8. A little pop of color in the home is always a good thing, $38

9. These chocolates are almost too pretty to eat (almost), $30

10. Zebra wood headphones make a great gifts for music lovers, $50

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P.S. Looking for charitable gifts under $25? Here you go.

Gifts That Give Back Under $25

Happy Holidays, everyone! With two weeks until Christmas, we are deep into gift-giving season. Every year, I come across gifts that give back, but I’ve never compiled an official gift guide. That ends today (obviously). I’ve compiled three guides designed to meet various budget needs.

First up, gifts under $25.

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1. The cutest moccasins for your favorite little one, $21

2. A little ankara makes this tee perfect, $18

3. Gold leather earrings perfect for a night out, $24

4. This handmade teensy beanie makes a great baby gift, $23

5. Kiehl’s is giving its famous crème the “Norman Rockwell” treatment, $18

6. May your note cards be merry and bright, $12

7. “Build your tomorrow” with a little arm candy, $15

8. Give these cool pencils and support Kenyan children’s education, $10

9. EOS and Nicole by OPI bring you the best stocking stuffer, $10

10. These unique coasters support Haitian artisans, $20

The UNICEF note cards are my favorite for sure. See anything on this list that you like? The next two guides are on their way. Stay tuned!

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Roasted Veggies: The Easiest (and Most Colorful) Side Dish EVER

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, friendsgiving, and potlucks. Lots and lots of potlucks. Every year, it seems that the number of potluck events increase. I’m not complaining because it gives me a great excuse to catch up with friends and co-workers. However, I always get a little anxiety while deciding what to make for these events. I’m usually up against some really talented cooks and I want my dish to be able to hold its own. Not that it’s a competition or anything ;-)

Yesterday, my co-workers planned a pre-Thanksgiving celebration and I decided to bring roasted veggies. Guys, this might be the easiest side dish of all times and it is delicious. For my recipe, I used broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, red onions, and red bell peppers. Below are the super easy steps for pulling it all together.

1. Wash and cut vegetables before placing in a large bowl.

So many colors!

2. Toss with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and Montreal Steak seasoning. (Thanks to The Pioneer Woman for the heads up!)

Veggies after a little oil and seasoning

Veggies after a little oil and seasoning

3. Place the veggies in a single layer on a thin baking pan. Broil on a high setting for 15-20 minutes. (Tip: Watch the broccoli to make sure it doesn’t brown too fast).

One of the pans that I used

One of the pans that I used

4. Remove the veggies and transfer into a serving dish.

Fresh out of the oven. Suh-woon.

Fresh out of the oven. Suh-woon.

Voila. Done and done!

Isn’t that easy? Aside from potlucks, this is also a great dish to make for community service projects, like preparing meals at a soup kitchen or for families at the Ronald McDonald House. Just remember to buy enough veggies!

If you are not crazy about vegetables, I’ve rounded up some other great recipes that I have tried (and loved) that you can take to your next event.

Sweet Honey & Jalapeño Corn Muffins

Charred Skillet Corn with Bacon

Bacon-Wrapped Green Bean Bundles

Salted Caramel Rice Krispies Squares

Cheesy Stuffed Pepper Casserole

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

I am always looking for new recipes to master, so please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments. What’s your favorite go-to dish for potlucks and get togethers?

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Is a Birchbox Subscription Worth It?

Subscription services are apparently the cat’s meow. From shoes to clothing and even dinner ingredients, you can pretty much get anything delivered on your doorstep every month. One of the first companies that I heard of doing this was Birchbox, a beauty-focused box. While intrigued, I never pulled the trigger.

Fast forward to last week.

While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I see that (RED) and Birchbox have teamed up for a limited edition December box in recognition of World AIDS Day. I don’t know if it was the packaging or the fact that I would be doing good, but I have been debating whether or not to sign up for Birchbox now. In full disclosure, I am not a product junkie and my monthly spoils might just end up in my linen closet.

If I subscribe by 11/30, then I can still receive this limited edition box and begin my own little beauty journey. That gives me less than two weeks to decide. So, I would love your opinion. Do you have a Birchbox subscription? Do you love it? Do you think that it is worth it? 

Help!

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Photo: Facebook

TOMS for Target In Stores Now!

Last year, Target brought us the charitable collaboration with FEED Projects. This year, everyone’s favorite retailer has partnered with the original “One-for-One” social enterprise to bring us the TOMS for Target collection. There are more than 50 items in the holiday collection, all under $50. I know that we’re all used to TOMS footwear, but there are also items like candles, blankets, and accessories for all.

The TOMS for Target collection has the potential to provide more than 11 million meals, blankets and shoes to those in need. Every purchase of clothing, accessory and home good purchase will lead to a donation of a blanket through the American Red Cross or Canadian Red Cross, or one week of meals through Feeding America or Food Banks Canada. And for every TOMS for Target pair of shoes sold, a pair will go to a child in need.

Take a look at some of my favorite items from the collection below. You can view all of the items here and head to your nearest Tarjay to get your hands on the goods.

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Photos: Target

In Support of Caregiving Youth

I was going through some boxes the other day and stumbled across a page in an old college notebook where I jotted down the contact information and notes for several Chicago nursing homes. Just looking at my handwriting transported me back to 2005. I had just graduated from college and had just returned to Chicago to begin my career in advertising. I was also trying to work through my mother’s recent stroke or severe multiple sclerosis exacerbation (depends on who you ask). Part of this included researching nursing homes where she could go and live once she was released from her acute rehabilitation center.

Me cheesing it up with my mama :-)

Me cheesing it up with my mama :-)

Being 22 and trying to juggle all of those decisions was difficult, but it was a lifestyle to which I had become accustomed. I played the role of caregiver for my mom for many years and made many decisions that affected her directly and indirectly. When I tell people my story, they tend to give me this sad look and offer comforting words. I accept and appreciate those words, but not for me. You see, my mother passed away in 2008, so I’m not a caregiver anymore. I accept these words on behalf of former and current caregiving youth.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to honor and celebrate the selflessness of family caregivers (read: not paid) who provide support to elderly and/or disabled loved ones. While much of this time is spent reflecting on adult caregivers, I always think about the more than one million children and teens who provide this type of support to a family member. Having to face adolescence while also balancing that type of role and responsibility is not an easy feat. Yet, we do it did it because it needed to be done.

On Sunday, the American Association of Caregiving Youth is hosting its first Twitter chat from 4p – 5p ET. The hashtag is #caregivingyouth. If you are a former youth caregiver, work with children and teens who are, or just want to learn more about how you can support this community, I ask you to join us.

To learn more, please visit http://www.aacy.org.

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Where Has The Passion Planner Been All My Life?

I like to make big plans. In fact, I make so many big plans that I actually have an execution problem. Meaning that, I probably only execute 25% of what I think about. This isn’t the blog post to discuss why that is. However, if you’re interested, you can read my post about my challenge with finishing what I start. Because of this issue, I’ve been trying all types of things to get me from the big idea to the actual “doing.”

I keep a day planner but have found that it doesn’t always help me work backwards from big idea to the little tasks that I need to complete. I keep a notebook for the doodling and idea brainstorms but then get annoyed that there’s nowhere to jot down dates and actionable timelines. I make weekly to-do lists broken down between home, personal, passion, and community but always end up with something falling through the cracks. So, here I am with one day planner, one notebook, one half-checked to-do list, lots of big ideas, and no true (paper-centered) way to keep everything together.

Until…

Last night, one of my Facebook friends shared a link to the Passion Planner project on Kickstarter. From the name alone, I was intrigued. I clicked the link and was led to the brilliant video below.

WHOA. My brain started shouting from the rooftops, “This is IT! You need this!” And, that brain shout was actually followed by a verbal gasp and loud “Oh my God. YES!” To break it down for you, the Passion Planner brands itself as “the life coach that fits in your backpack.” It is essentially a sketchbook, day planner, journal, and inspirational source all in one. For a notebook-loving, day planner-toting, scribbler queen such as myself, this idea is pure gold. I needed in.

Apparently, my reaction was not that uncommon considering that this project has received nearly $300K pledges and over 9,300 backers – including me. Last night, I immediately ordered one for myself and am anxiously awaiting its arrival in January 2015. I’ve never made small plans but I haven’t been to good about executing the large ones. I’m so excited to have this tool in my future world.

In the words of Daniel Burnham, Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.

Amen.

To learn more about the Passion Planner, you can head to the website. If you’re on IG, you might also be interested in their feed. There are lots of great motivational quotes shared on a regular basis (@passionplanner).

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Giving Military Moms-to-Be a Fun Surprise

Yesterday, Americans took a collective moment to celebrate our veterans for their sacrifice and service. While reading different articles in my newsfeed, I stumbled across one that discussed the work being done to support mothers-to-be who have husbands currently deployed or husbands who were injured during their deployment.

Moms with Heidi Klum at an Operation Shower event (Photo: Operation Shower)

Moms with Heidi Klum at a March event (Photo: Operation Shower)

Operation Shower is one of those organizations that gives me fuzzy feelings and makes me smile deep down in my heart. Their mission states that they “provide baby showers for military families to ease the stresses of deployment.”

So, how does this work? A person (or group) gets nominated to participate in a group shower in their area. The organization uses donations to create a “Shower in a Box” for the moms-to-be and then the goodies are presented in a group setting. If you want to contribute, you can donate money to the cause or purchase new gifts to be included in the kits. All of the details, including an item list, can be found on the website.

Military families need all of the love and support that they can get, and there is something really special about strangers linking up to support them. To learn more about Operation Shower, visit http://www.operationshower.org.

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“Tue” Fab: 5 Things I’m Loving Right Now

Volunteering in the ‘Burbs

Six months ago, I swapped my Chicago (proper) address for a suburban one (*sobs*) and have been adjusting to life ever since. There are many practical reasons why I chose to move to the suburbs, but the most important one was my husband’s declaration that he would never live in the city of Chicago. I begged and tried to sell him on the virtues of my hometown, but it was a no go. I get it.

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So, now I’m out here and am trying to substitute many of my favorite Chicago (proper) activities with acceptable suburban versions. I know where I can get jerk chicken (25 minutes away) and found a great nail spa in town. One of the things that I was really concerned about was finding volunteer opportunities out here. While there’s a tendency to think that the suburbs are perfect, the truth is that many people out here need assistance as well. So, how could I help in my new neighborhood?

Well, the first sign that I received was the sight of a food drop-off bucket for the Self Help Closet & Food Pantry of Des Plaines in a grocery store across the street from our house. This is probably my favorite way to give back because I can just buy extra staples or canned goods on sale and place them in the container. I found out that the Food Pantry has regular volunteer opportunities so I hope to help out there one day.

Another opportunity that I’m really excited about is the Breakfast for Baby activity hosted by my local Salvation Army chapter. On the second Saturday of the month, families with little ones under a year old can come out for breakfast and the opportunity to “shop” for diapers and other baby supplies.

Between the above opportunities and the listings on the Hands On Suburban Chicago website, it makes me feel better to know where and how I can give back to my community. This isn’t to say that I won’t ever volunteer in Chicago (proper) again. I love my city too much to do that. Besides with my annual service challenge on the horizon, I need all of the service learning projects that I can find! More info on that to come. Until then…

 

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Image: Daily Herald
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