Category: winter

23 life-improving gifts you should just buy for your damn self

What gifts should you buy yourself? What are the things that will improve your life but nobody really wants to wrap and give you? These are all things I swear by! Target seamless underwear, the perfect travel mug, the best cutting board. Click through to see my list of gift ideas! >>

It’s December! This means your RSS feed is flooded with gift guides that include things like gold staplers and “Whisky Stones.”

And while I love a good gift guide as much as a the next blogger, my gift-giving philosophy runs more towards non-things. You know, tarot card readings and weird exotic plants.

And what do I want you to give me? A really nice colander. Or some lush merino socks.

But a lot of people would prefer to give you a gold stapler when you specifically asked for merino socks and a good colander. 

If you’re nodding along, you get it. Sometimes the best way to get the gift you want is to buy it for your damn self.

To that end, I’m sharing some of the truly day-improving, can’t-imagine-my-life-without-it purchases I’ve made in the last few years. And I asked my friends to share their favorites too so this doesn’t just devolve into a roundup of high-quality cat toys and really good underwear.

Imagine this is Oprah’s ‘Favorite Things’ – except it’s for normal people and nothing costs more than $50.

23 gifts to buy yourself


How To Hygge (Or: 29 Ways To Actually Enjoy Winter)

'Hygge' is the Danish concept of "winter coziness." If you want to actually enjoy Winter, click through for 29 cozy-fying, awesome ideas! //
Imagine looking forward to the cold and dark of winter.

Can you picture it?

Pulling out your favorite soup recipes and a pile of cozy sweaters.

Lighting candles around the house and inviting friends over for sledding and board games.

Snowshoeing through a forest muffled with snow, towards a bright cabin full of your favorite people

When we put it like that, six months of dark and cold seems almost …. pleasant.

If you’ve never heard of hygge before, it’s the Danish concept of warm coziness during the winter months. It’s “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people” (according to Denmark’s official tourism website.)  Those Danes actually enjoy winter! They embrace it and look forward to it! Whaaaaatttt?!!

And as a third-generation Minnesotan of Scandinavian descent, I know a thing (or 29) about winter. I know how to cozy down and warm up.

So if you, too, are looking for a more social, more enjoyable winter – this post is for you. Bookmark it for the coming months when the excitement of the holidays has worn off and now it’s just cold and dark and dreary. Pour yourself something warm, settle in, and have a read.

How to Hygge (or at least hate winter less) 


How To Look Cute Even When It’s Really, Really Cold

Winter style tips don't end with tights and boots! It's possible to look cute even when it's cold! Click through for winter hairstyle, winter makeup and skincare tips, and winter fashion advice! >>

Is it even possible to look when it’s cold? Can you really look stylish while wearing three layers and your hair is all full of static and your lips are chapped?

Sure, looking super cute is slightly more challenging when it’s -20, but it can be done (as evidenced by, oh, the entire population of Scandinavia). As a third-generation Minnesotan, I’ve figured out a few ways to stay cute and warm this winter, some of which you might not know!

Wear fleece-lined leggings

These are nearly as life-changing for us cold-climate ladies as the invention of heated car seats. These leggings have 1,100+ 4.5 star reviews AND A WIDE WAISTBAND which means none of that segmented-worm-body syndrome we all struggle with. For a long time, I’ve been trying to pretend that my silk long underwear were leggings. While they’re amazing and warm-keeping, they can also get a bit baggy around the knees. Not these leggings!

Wear Merino wool everything

Is Merino wool expensive? Yes. Is it an investment in the quality of your winter life? Also yes. Gap carries Merino sweaters that are $49 and you can pretty frequently find 100% wool sweaters at thrift stores.

Tuck serious socks inside your stylish boots

Want to wear those cute, pointy-toed black leather boots? You can stay warm if you wear a pair of not-particularly-cute wool socks inside your cute boots. And if wool makes you itchy? Layer thin ‘business’ socks between your feet and the wool.

Try shoe inserts

Now, I’m a missionary for Dr. Scholls inserts because I’m a vain weirdo who’s concerned about varicose veins. But you know what else they’re good for? Adding some much-needed distance between your feet and the cold, icy ground. If you don’t need the arch support, you can just get fleece inserts. (But don’t use the gel inserts because that ish will freeze.)

Keep separate shoes/boots at work

If you have to walk any distance on your way to work (home to bus, home to office) chances are that your Warm Footwear and your Office Appropriate Footwear are not one and the same. Make things easier on yourself by keeping 2-3 pairs of shoes at work and changing into them when you get there. No one will be the wiser!

Also, this year I’m getting Yaktrax ice cleats. I am so tired of slipping and sliding on icy sidewalks a-holes can’t be bothered to shovel.

Buy real, actual winter clothes.

Like, investment pieces. That aren’t from Target.

When I first moved back to Minnesota, I made the mistake of buying a pair of cheap, cute, slouchy cloth (!!!) boots and thinking that I could wear them to walk to the grocery store and dig my car out of snowbanks.Spoiler alert: they dissolved in about a month and I nearly lost a toe to frostbite. Be ye not so stupid as me.

Those Norwegians are onto something when they say “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” and I’m sorry to say most of those ‘bad weather clothes’ are from Target, Old Navy, and H & M.

Now is the time to be a grown up and buy an actual wool coat (again, you can totally thrift these) and real winter boots. (I liiiiive in these.)  Buy a winter coat with a zip-in liner that’s long enough to cover your butt. If you’re hair-obsessed (like me) get a jacket with a hood; it’ll keep you warm, protect your neck + carefully styled-to-look-slightly-messy hair.

Use serious moisturizer + conditioner

Yup, it’s time to switch it up. I use this moisturizer exclusively in the winter and this leave-in conditioner.

Run a humidifier with essential oils

Yes, I’ve banged on about humidifiers, like, 18 times. Because they work. They make your home feel warmer, they’re good for your skin and hair, and they can actually prevent you from getting sick. If you want to feel fancy, add a few drops of essential oil – lavender to feel calm, peppermint to boost your energy.

Use coconut oil or petroleum jelly on your nose, cheeks, knuckles 

Just about any body part that has contact with the great outdoors will get chapped and dry, I’m afraid. But if you oil up before you head out, you can keep things smooth and supple.

Put translucent powder on your lashes

SO THEY WON’T FREEZE TOGETHER. What? Yes. We choose to live in a place where frozen eyelashes are a viable concern.

Washyour hair waaaaay less

Winter is that excuse you (aka: I) have been seeking to only wash our hair once or twice a week. I go for ye olde ‘wash my bangs in the sink’ trick and use a lot of dry shampoo. Also: 15 hairstyles for dirty hair.

Do you live in a cold climate? Share your best tips or products with us in the comments!

P.S. 29 ways to actually enjoy winter + How to make your house cozy when it’s grey + horribly outside

photo by  dmitry ratushny // cc


11 Creative Ways To Make Your House Cozy

Want to make your house cozy this winter? Looking for winter decor tips? Look no further! Click through for cozy, warming, fun ways to make your house a snuggle palace this winter! >>

Now, I don’t want to brag or anything but I’m pretty much a competition-level cozy-fier. As a third-generation Minnesotan of Scandinavian decent, I know how to make your house cozy – I mean, it’s kinnnnnd of written into my DNA.

Even if you live south of the frost line, winter means shorter days and longer nights. I bet even Floridians could benefit from these house cozy-ing ideas!

Here are 11 ways you can make your house cozy, no matter where you live

1. Purchase and light all the candles that have ever been made

But not just any candles, you guys. If you haven’t experienced the wonder that is a wooden wick candle, you need to stop reading this post, drive to Target, and buy three of them right now. I’ll wait.
Are they a bit expensive? Yes. Are they 100% worth it? Also yes. They make audible fire sounds, dudes. That is worth $18 when it’s sleeting outside. Also of note: this candle allegedly smells like campfire and I can personally vouch that soy candles really do last a lot longer than wax. Which matters when you’re burning three at a time for 12 hours a day.

2. Add cozy, warm lighting

By now we’re probably all using fluorescent bulbs because we care about the earth, right? I think it’s okay if you use a few rosy, lower wattage incandescents here and there around your home. If you’re fancy/handy install a dimmer switch or just pop on a more opaque lamp shade.
One of my favorite things to do in these darker months? String fairy lights through the branches of my big fig tree. It’s festive and warming and since they’re white lights I don’t feel like I’m preemptively decorating for the holidays.

3. Swap in warmer, textured furnishing

“Now, Sarah, that’s a bit much, isn’t it? Do you really have two different sets of decor for the season? Are you a Rockefeller?”

I’m not, my friends. I do, however, live through six months of snow and darkness each year so I take this business Seriously.

A few months ago I splashed out on lined, velvet curtains (I got these and they’re amazing) and they’re about a million times nicer than the thin, linen, $26 curtains from Ikea. You know what’s nicer than cotton and satin pillows when it’s cold? Velvety, corduroy pillows. And purchasing the perfect couch blanket is a science which I have perfected. It’s this one.

And if you’re realllllly serious and live in a space with hardwood floors, change out your classy, thin Oriental rugs for something thick and shaggy.

4. Get the perfect slippers + and the perfect ‘house sweater’

I have a pair of fur-lined leather slippers I bought on the street in Peru but my mom swears by the L.L. Bean version and I steal them every time I’m home.

What’s a ‘house sweater’ you ask? It’s a drapey sweater that serves the same purpose as a robe or giant hoodie but makes you feel slightly grown up. I have one similar to this and I wear it constantly.

5. Simmer some good-smelling things on the stove

If you’re a lady who reads the internet, I’m sure you’ve already heard about stove simmers. Thrift an old pot, fill it with water and good-smelling things, turn your stove to low and allofasudden your house smells wonderful and you didn’t even need to cook. Here are some ‘recipes’ for stove simmers.

6. Run your humidifier

In Minnesota the air dries out as soon as summer ends, which means chapped skin, more colds and flus, and the temperature inside even feels colder! Run a humidifier, guys. You can get them everywhere, they’re not expensive and they’ll make your apartment feel warmer (literally!) Just be sure to clean it regularly so you’re not pumping wet, germ-filled air into your home. 

7. Create an excuse to use your stove + oven

It’ll make your house smell good and feel warmer. Here are 10 amazing soup recipes and a million interesting, innovative cookie recipes.

8. Pet cuddling #dur

This is obviously the time of year for enforced pet cuddling – and if you have an aloof pet they’re more likely to snuggle now because they want to steal your warms! If you’re a super devoted owner of an older pet, consider getting a heated pet bed!

9. Start a fire or watch a fireplace DVD

Are you lucky enough to have a functioning fireplace? Awesome. When can I come over? If not, tune into this three-hour long fire video on Youtube or buy a million of those woodwick candles I won’t shut up about.

10. Turn on the cozy music

Rather bizarrely, I have some very specific ideas about which types of music are ‘cozy’ and which aren’t. In my mind, electronica and punk aren’t cozy. Jazz and Rhye are. I’m sure you’ve got your own ideas of cozy music, tune in accordingly.

11. Bring your cozy with you

If you regularly spend the night somewhere else – like your partner’s house or you travel a lot for work – make yourself a little cozy bag filled with duplicates of all your favorite stuff: slippers, house sweater, travel candle.

Is your office less than cozy? Bring in a little desk lamp with an incandescent light and use that instead of that horrible fluorescent number. Bring a few cuddly pashmina scarves that are office appropriate but still cozy-i-fing.

How do you keep your home cozy during these long and gray months?

P.S. How to look cute even when it’s really cold + How to break out of a winter style rut

photo by paul itkin // cc

Reminder: you get to choose how your holidays look + feel

Do you want a minimalist Christmas? Or a calmer holiday season? It's easy to forget but we get to choose how we celebrate the holidays and if you want to opt out of a tradition or set of expectations, you can.

Are you stressed out yet?

Are you completely overwhelmed by the invites to one million white elephant parties/ugly sweater parties/cookie making parties? Are you looking at your bank account with fear as you calculate how many more gifts you need to buy? Have you maxed out on cookie dough yet?

(Just kidding. It’s impossible to max out on cookie dough!)

I just wanted to remind you (and myself) that we are totally in charge of how we choose to spend our holidays. We get to decide what our holidays look like.

If you don’t want to, you don’t have to:

buy presents for everyone you’ve ever met
get a real tree
get a fake tree
make any cookies – at all
send holiday cards
attend every party you’re invited to
spend your vacation days driving around the tri-state area visiting every person you share DNA with

You get to choose what your holiday looks like (even if it requires some tough conversations) Click To Tweet

If you enjoy doing those things, then you should totally, totally do them. I looooove helping my mom decorate the house for the holidays. I looooove helping her make lefse and eating my weight in cookie dough. I love purchasing carefully considered, verging-on-awkwardly-overly-generous gifts for a few very important people in my life. I love watching my nieces’ Christmas pageants.

I do not like (even a little bit) Secret Santa gift exchanges. Or office parties. Or driving many, many hours to stay in hotels. And I’m not really that into cookies (mostly I just like the dough).

It might require a few tough conversations. You might get called ‘the office Grinch’ because you’re not interested in swapping $5 gifts with Tom in Accounting. Great Aunt Marge might try to guilt trip you because you’re not driving five hours to stay in Motel 8 and tolerate her inquiries into your personal life.

Summon a bit of your personal holiday spirit and make this season your own – in whatever shape that looks like.

photo by kris atomic // cc

How To Survive Holiday Travel With Grace + Aplomb

Trying to survive holiday travel? Traveling this Thanksgiving? These super helpful, doable travel tips will make your holiday season so much easier! >>
In addition to finding the gifts and wearing Christmas sweaters with panache, learning how to survive holiday travel is one of the best skill sets any of us can develop this month.

Is it possible to learn to enjoy hours in a car or plane? I’m not sure – but it is possible to hate them less.

How to Survive Holiday Travel

Here are my best suggestions for how to survive holiday travel, honed by 30+ years of multi-day, interstate Christmas road trips.

Bring awesome snacks

Travel makes most people cranky, as does low blood sugar. Let’s not add fuel to the fire.
Pack snacks that will balance your blood sugar and help you stay hydrated. Cucumber spears, celery sticks, and cherry tomatoes are full of water, easy to pack, and pair nicely with some store-bought hummus. Clementines are super portable, easy to peel and will make your car smell good.

Homemade trail mix and string cheese will keep your energy up and we all need to eat these cookie dough energy balls. (Spoiler alert: super healthy, not actually cookie dough, really delicious.)

Wear the best, most awesome travel outfit

Let’s talk about shoes or boots that slip off. Let’s talk about layers so you can cover up or uncover as the temperature dictates. Let’s talk about big, snuggly cardigans and a huge scarf that can be used as a pillow or blanket.

And what about elastic waistbands? Or a knit fit-and-flare dress THAT DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A WAISTBAND? And let’s leave the jewelry and belts in our suitcase because that stuff sets off the metal detectors (and sequins screw up the body scanner!)

Make yourself comfortable

You’ll never successfully turn your car  or airplane seat into a spa (trust me, I’ve tried) but you can make it a jillion times more comfortable.

What if you brought:

  • the world’s most perfect neck pillow – or just your favorite ‘real’ pillow!
  • a little blanket to stay warm
  • ear plugs
  • cozy socks so you can slip off your shoes
  • moisturizer
  • hand sanitizer
  • peppermint gum – it’ll help your ears if you’re flying and freshen your breath/wake you up if you’re driving!
  • face mist – after hours in transit it makes you feel so much fresher!

Remove opportunities for stress + miscommunication

You now what I mean. The gps cuts out five miles away from the cabin you rented; your phone dies; the hotel loses your reservation.
Of course, you can’t prepare for every single contingency, but you can drastically reduce the likelihood of various mishaps.

You could:

  • Double check that you’ll have phone and data service if you’re going somewhere rural or remote
  • Make sure you have AAA if you’re driving
  • Confirm all your reservations
  • Print out addresses, reservation numbers, phone numbers in case you lose your phone (this has happened to me!)
  • Buy a portable phone charger
  • If you’re flying and checking luggage, make sure your essentials are in your carry-on
  • Think about what didn’t work last time you made this holiday trip – and plan/pack accordingly
  • If you have special dietary needs, talk to your hosts ahead of time – this script will help!

tips for stress free holiday travelBYO Entertainment

Most of your travel will consist of sitting – at the gate, on the plane, in the car – and sitting is not terribly fun. Pack a light, fun novel or a little book of crosswords or suduku. Make sure your phone or tablet is loaded with movies and podcasts.

I actually like to use travel time as an opportunity to disconnect from technology and do a bit of old school people watching or a play a game of Would You Rather? If you’re in the car, play license plate bingo or name that tune.

Channel some travel zen

We all know that getting wound up by the snow-delayed flight or the heavy traffic is pointless. It’s also worth remembering that in travel, and often in life, things will take twice as long as you expect and cost a good bit more. So give your budget and your schedule a bit of wiggle room and you’ll be a lot happier.

It’s also worth remembering that the annoying guy causing a scene at baggage claim? He’s not trying to be malacious, he’s just stressed out and tired, like everybody else. And the baby that’s howling behind you? She’s not on a personal mission to give you a migraine.

Take a few deep breaths, imagine yourself tucking into some mashed potatoes alongside your favorite aunt and try to remember that getting there at 5:45 instead of 4:30 is not going to be the end of the world as we know it.

Failing that: download this free, calming music. Put your headphones in and ignore everything/everyone.

Use your travel time to do something you love or have been meaning to do

If you can’t stomach the idea of sitting idly on a plane for three hours, you can certainly use your time to read A Very Important Book you’ve been meaning to get to, plot your plans for 2016, write your Christmas cards or work on your novel.

One of my favorite things to do on any return flight is write a list of my 100 favorite memories from the trip while they’re all fresh in my mind. It’s slightly more rewarding than reading the inflight magazine.

Find a little pocket of space or time

I don’t know about you, but for me,  just being in an enclosed space with lots other people is exhausting.

Consider not carpooling to Hannukah with your cousin who pushes your buttons. Head to your departure gate way, way early before anyone else gets there. If you can afford it, book a hotel room instead of sleeping on the pull-out sofa in your grandma’s basement.

If you’re feeling really fancy, splash out on a one-day pass to your airline’s first class lounge.  Allegedly, they’re deliciously quiet, serene, decadent places!

Are you traveling far this holiday season?  How do you survive holiday travel?

P.S. How to survive holiday dinner

photo by Thomas Lefebvre // cc