Thoughtful Gifts for the Chronically Ill

Since I often blog and speak about my chronic illnesses, I occasionally find myself on the receiving end of an email that sounds something like this, “Hey Stephanie, my friend so-and-so just found out they have insert diagnosis here. I really want to send them a care package or a gift to show them I care. Could you give me some kind of idea of what they would want?” In fact, I get these sorts of messages so often I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blog post to answering this, so I can point people towards this list in the future.

It’s important to remember: whether your friend or family member is facing a life long chronic ailment, is spending the next few months enduring chemo or radiation, is facing a long bedrest for pregnancy complications, or is learning to cope with a new physical handicap – every case, and every person, will be different. Not every gift is appropriate in every circumstance or personality, so above all, don’t be afraid to ask. But in the end, I know first hand how hard it can be to ask for help even when it’s offered, so hopefully this list will offer some great ideas when you have that friend says “it’s ok… we’re managing” (Yeah, guilty as charged on that one!)

Heartfelt Gifts

Caring Crate Subscription Box ($39.95 per month, or discount if ordering multiple months)
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Subscription boxes are all the rage right now, and this incredible company decided to create a box specifically to minister to the needs of the chronically ill. Every box has beautiful self care products for the body and mind, each hand chosen with those suffering from long term illnesses in mind. They are the perfect gift for somebody going through cancer treatments since you can arrange a 3 or even 6 months subscription so that when the initial wave of cards and calls start to taper off, they are still receiving beautiful reminders each month that someone is thinking of them.

Spoon Necklace ($14.99)
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Members in the chronic illness community have adopted the spoon as one our most important symbols, often referring to ourselves as “spoonies.” The inspiration behind this comes from an incredible post called The Spoon Theory, that you can read all about here.  A spoon necklace is a touching way to tell your friend that you understand the choices she faces each day with managing her “spoons.” I suggest adding a thoughtful note to let them know you always want them to have an extra spoon for those especially tough days.

 

 

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31st Birthday Wishlist

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Today is my birthday! So far today I’ve received the flu: sore throat, body aches, fever, fatigue… yeah. I don’t remember registering for this. At least it gives me an excuse to eat copious amounts of ice cream and watch all the old seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, right?

So what IS on my birthday wish list this year? Check out some of my most coveted items from my Wishing and Swooning board on Pinterest these days.

1. BAGS: A girl cant ever really have too many great bags, can she? (My husband says “Oh yes she can,” but we wont listen to him now will we.) No matter how our size may fluctuate through the years, a great bag wont ever stop fitting ;) These days I have my eyes on the chicest little leopard foldover clutch from Accessory Lane ($45.99). It’s the perfect pop of leopard print without being too overwhelming, and adds just the right touch of fun to a polished look. For future speaking engagements I’ve been eyeing this fantastic weekender bag from Sole Society. ($79.95.) Its the perfect size for a quick overnight getaway, and it even has a separate compartment on the bottom just for shoes!

2. BEAUTY:  My amazing mama was in town this last week and actually surprised me with one of my most coveted beauty items! The gorgeous Everything Eyes Palette from Bobbi Brown (a Nordstrom exclusive item) has $139 of value at a $75 pricetag. I love that Bobbi has already coordinated the colors for perfect eyeshadow looks, and even included 4 amazing travel brushes that fit right IN the compact. I can throw this right into my bag and chance from day to evening on the go, or just touch up my look wherever I may be. Plus the colors are universally flattering and age appropriate for anyone, Bobbi’s signature when it comes to her cosmetic line. I’ve also been eyeing an amazing new lip line called Lip Sense, which seriously holds up to its claims of being smudgeproof all day color. Google for some videos from their sellers and you’ll see: these colors hold up to just about ANYTHING you can throw at them. For somebody who speaks on stage for part of her living? Im thinking a collection of their amazing colors might be in my future.

3. MUGS: I collect coffee mugs (much to my husbands dismay) and am always looking for great ones to add to my growing collection. Two of my most wanted right now? The fantastic “Stressed, Blessed, and Coffee Obsessed” travel mug from Be Still Clothing company is definitely my #1 must have ($18.00). It’s like they designed it just for me! I’m also eyeing this adorable “Coffee, Because Adulting is Hard” mug from Etsy, because lets face it, Adulting IS hard. ($13.00)

4.CREATIVITY: I’m always looking for ways to play with my creative side, and so this years list includes the amazing Minc foil applicator set from Heidi Swapp. This incredible little crafting device lets you make gold foil prints at home, and Heidi even sells a variety of other colored foils and accessories to let your creativity really shine. Im also coveting the amazing Lightroom editing collections from VSCO ($59.00.) I use the mobile editing application from VSCO, but Im dying to add their beautiful film style editing tools to my Lightroom suite.

5. CUTE COMFORT: When you are a #spoonie, you’re always looking for comfortable loungewear thats still chic enough to be seen in. This amazing “I Woke Up Like This #Tired” sweatshirt is pretty much my life story! ($42.00) Im dying to get my hands on one. This adorable “Coffee Is My BFF” loungewear set from Target is both cute AND affordable, ringing in at only $17.99 for both pieces.

6. PAIN RELIEF: Life with chronic pain means your fantasy wish list looks a little bit different than most, with items specifically geared to minimize pain and maximize your ability to be a functional human being. Since my husband and I are currently spending our nights on a 12 year old mattress that honestly belongs on a trash heap somewhere, my biggest fantasy would be an amazing memory foam mattress with an adjustable base. But…. that may have to wait until we win the lottery. A little bit more reasonable may be this 2″ Foam Mattress Topper ($57.99) that might make our current mattress feel a little more tolerable for the time being. If all else fails, I could use this Shiatsu Massage Pillow ($34.95) to imagine I have a live in masseur ready to tend daily to my aches and pains. A girl can dream right?

What’s In My Bag?

 

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Got a request email from a reader for a “What’s In My Bag” post. Confession? I see the gorgeous and fashionable versions of these all the time, and this isn’t exactly one of those. My bag was less than $50 from Target, I don’t carry adorable lotions and skin care and Kate Spade office accessories, but you know what? That’s exactly why I agreed to do the post. I think many of us are tired of seeing the same lifestyle products shown over and over (often sponsored and paid for by brands) and we are left thinking we are the only gals left out of the loop. So today after the email I emptied my actual purse out onto the floor, and *confession* threw away some of the random trash I accumulate in my bag as a mama, and I have pulled together whats left to share what is really and truly in my bag.


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1) Journaling ESV Bible from Crossway: Yes, I really do carry my Bible around in my bag. With the circus I live in there’s just no way of knowing when a few minutes of peace will come, so I make sure I’m prepared anytime, anywhere. I can’t recommend this particular Bible enough. The ESV is a fantastic translation for accuracy (I’m a total Bible nerd, so this is a big deal for me,) and this version has a lined column on the side of each page so you can put your notes directly INTO your Bible. I often think of how neat its going to be to pass this on to my kids someday, so the investment was worth every penny. It’s a priceless heirloom.

2) Bible Study Kit: I made my own personal Bible study kit from an adorable expandable bag I scored at Target once, these great double ended colored pencils I use for highlighting, and items from the dollar spot at Target. A date stamp is a great way to show when you added your thoughts, so you can track your journey through the years, and page flags can mark spots of special importance to come back to.

3) Lego Mini Figure: This may seem odd, but this little lego guy is one of the most important items I keep on me. Every time I see this lego guy I remember to stop for a moment and pray intentionally for my boys. Its a great reminder in the midst of all the daily chaos of life.

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4) Notebook: Writers gonna write, and I never know when inspiration is going to hit.  (This notebook is from a collection sold exclusively in store at Target. Lots of matching pieces are available too, in case you love mint and gold as much as I do!)

5) Pens and Pencil: Im a writer, so I have a favorite pen I love and simply cant be without. For me its this gorgeous fine nib gold fountain pen from Pilot. Its incredibly affordable for a fountain pen, so its easily replaced if lost or stolen. Amazon sells refill cartridges, or the pen comes with the option to use traditional bottled ink as well. I also make sure to carry a mechanical pencil for the times that a pen just wont do, and a ball point pen that doubles as a tablet stylus – perfect for electronic signatures.

6) Business Cards and Case: You never know when you’ll need to leave your card! I have mine in this adorable case from See Jane Work.

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7. iPad Air and Bluetooth Keyboard: Rather than use a laptop, I’ve opted for the light portability and versatility of this more creative set up. I have the gold iPad set in this gorgeous bluetooth keyboard case, which has a matching gold exterior. It looks like a mini laptop and gets tons of compliments, and the case is a great way to protect my screen while its in my bag.

8) iPhone 6 and Headphones: I’m an apple girl 10000%, and my phone is no exception.

9) Charging Options: I always carry charging options when Im on the go. I keep an extra USB/Wall Plug Adapter in my bag, and I use cords from this collection – i love that they match my gold devices, and since they are woven rather than the usual cords they hold up much better to all the twisting and friction of regular use. (I was using my usual cord elsewhere, so its not shown in the photo here, sorry!) I also keep a portable charging bank similar to this one, in case I find myself low on batter when Im on the go.

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10. Health on the Go: I always keep a little of my most essential medication on hand, and I store it in one of these absolutely adorable macaroon cases. And I always keep a bottle or two of essential oils in my bag – this blend is great for when kiddos are getting a bit nutso.

11. Kate Spade Walk on Air Roller Ball & Gloss: This came as a part this set I received for Christmas. I don’t really use the gloss, but the roller ball is fantastic for a scent touch up on the go. ( I found the roller ball sold alone without the gloss here at Sephora)

12. Make Up from Bobbi Brown: My sweet mama got me the adorable Bobbi Brown mini lip and eye palette I had my eye on for Christmas. Its only $29.99 and well worth the price!I also carry a Bobbi Brown lipstick (the color varies) and a Bobbi Brown gloss, always in Buff (such a fantastic shade.)

Just throw in my keys, my wallet, and inevitably some stuff for the boys, and Im ready for a day on the go!

Take Charge of the Internet Once and For All

Im so excited to finally be allowed to share this with you all that I just might burst. Its been the hardest secret I have EVER been asked to keep. When the incredible folks at Circle approached me to tell me about what they had created, the potential was obvious and my expectations were pretty high. Yet when I actually got my device and set it up? Expectations were so far surpassed you guys.

I am so incredibly honored to get to tell you guys about the one device I firmly believe EVERYONE who uses the internet should have in their home.

 

 

Now that you’ve seen a little taste of what Circle can do, let me tell you a bit about why I’m so head over heels in love with this tiny little device.

MULTIPLE USERS ACROSS ALL DEVICES: Circle is unlike any internet management tool I’ve seen, because rather than installing an app or program on a single device, Circle sets up an easy to use system for our entire home. Every single device that interacts with our home wifi connection is identified by our Circle, and each member of our family has a unique user profile that has its own customized settings.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Although the most obvious applications for Circle appear to be in the area of parental controls, don’t let that fool you! This device has something for EVERYONE. Whether you’re single, married, childless, or parenting a variety of ages, Circle provides a variety of tools for more intentional use of internet enabled devices. It can shed light on online habits that may have gone unnoticed, it can promote a new sense of intimacy in a marriage invaded by screens, it can even foster conversations with loved ones about how we use the internet and where it can take us in the future. Circle ultimately gives you what you make of it, no matter where you are in life.

TIME LIMITS: You can use Circle to easily set daily time limits for a family member on any app or category you want. You can also customize how much time your kids spend on each platform and even set a total online time for the day. The time limits are easy to adjust, and when a limit is reached that user and I both receive a notification, so I’m always in the loop and in the know. This sets up a great opportunity for my family to communicate regularly about our habits online so we know where to tweak and adjust these limits as we go.

FILTER CONTENT:  Circle has 4 preset age levels (Pre-K; Kid; Teen; Adult,) but it allows for further customization by platform, app, and category. I love that I can fine tune exactly what each member of my family sees online.

PAUSE THE INTERNET:  You read that right – the internet now comes with a pause button. With the push of a button I’m able to pause the internet on the fly, whether its family dinner time, date night with the hubby, or simply time to unplug and get to work around the house. The internet doesn’t have the power in my family anymore – I do!

SET BEDTIME:  With Circle, both our kids and their devices share the same bedtimes. I don’t have to collect devices from my kiddos or hide them every evening to ensure a good nights sleep. Their devices now disconnect automatically each evening and reconnect at a set time each day.

BLOCK ADS: Circle can block ads for any user or device. Ad Blocking was of huge importance to me for my impressionable kiddos, so this is a major plus.

STINKER PROOF: I have a genius and a stinker in my house, so I was concerned that either (or both) of them would find a way to circumvent the device. Luckily the folks at Circle are one step ahead of my little brood of schemers. Circle remains active even when unplugged and has no off button; the only way to adjust or change Circle’s filtering and time management settings is through the iOS app, which is password protected and can only be downloaded on a single smartphone.

DISCOVER INSIGHTS:  This is easily the MOST important feature of Circle. Circle tracks and displays an amazing panel of insights that show me things like the total time each user spends online, where they spend it, and the top 5 sites each user visits most. I can see when my kids get filtered and exactly what they were attempting to access when it happened. I can track my own personal web habits and make sure I’m practicing what I preach and setting healthy examples for my family. Most importantly, the insights panel provides a jumping off point for important conversations within our family about how we use the internet and what we choose to do with our devices.

B8-7ZDNY6gNffocV2ESrxRrDRPVIBg8VjJLkGGFY3aYRISK-PROOF INDEPENDENCE: Thanks to Circle, I have been able to grant a new level of independence to my children in regards to electronic devices. This tiny little unit has been the key that unlocked my ultimate dream: children who are learning to manage their own online behaviors and screen time habits without requiring my constant interference or supervision. Tablets, computers, streaming devices… none of them hold any fear for me any longer as a parent. They have simply become tools to grant my kids access to learn about the world, gain valuable skills in the technology age, further their education from home, and communicate with friends and relatives who aren’t close by. My children are thrilled to experience their new found independence, and I’m thrilled to foster their sense of personal responsibility for their own habits online. It’s a parenting win-win.

ONE-TIME COST WITHOUT A SUBSCRIPTION: Unlike many of the alternatives who market internet management or parental controls, circle is a one time cost and not a subscription based service. And considering all Circle does? It’s really affordable! Circle is available for purchase for just $99.

Have your attention? I hope so! You can get more information about what the device can do, see answers to all sorts of questions, and even order your own Circle at www.meetcircle.com. It’s time to harness the power of the internet for good and live intentionally in a whole new way.

LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW TELLING ME WHAT MOST EXCITES YOU ABOUT CIRCLE, OR ASKING A QUESTION ABOUT THE DEVICE, AND YOU’LL BE ENTERED TO WIN A JOY PACKAGE OF SOME OF MY FAVORITE TREATS AND GOODIES!

Winner will be selected by random.org on Wednesday, November 18th.

$20 Made Me “The Best Mom EVER”

A simple $20 investment each month has named me, and I’m quoting here, “the Best Mom EVER.”



You heard it here first folks: I am officially the best Mom EVER. I hope I get some sort of trophy or certificate or something. Now, the best mom ever title may already be claimed, but you could absolutely be named the SECOND best mom ever… and that’s still pretty good, right? How, you may ask, can this oh so coveted title be yours? Enter the amazing folks over at Kiwi Crate.

Kiwi CrateKiwi Crate is a subsccription box company with four different offerings: Koala Crate, which is designed for the preschool crowd, Doodle Crate, which is designed for girls over the age of 8, Tinker Crate, which is science and engineering projects ideally designed for kids 8 and up, and their main box Kiwi Crate, which is designed for kids in the 4-8 range. (Aidan’s Grandma has recently and generously subscribed him to the Tinker Crate, so we’ll review that service another time.) Inside the box is a magazine for the kids, and the supplies and instructions for not one but two projects that fit whatever the theme of that months box is. Within the magazine and some of the added materials are instructions for additional projects you could complete as well, often with supplies you likely have in your home already. They even included a page of pieces to cut out and use to make the box itself into a play stove! When all is said and done you could easily get a weeks worth of activities out of this one box if you did everything they included.

Our first box was a baking theme. Because it was our first box ever, our kit came with two extra items: a chart where Aidan can proudly display sticker badges he receives for each box he completes, and a bright green pair of children’s safety scissors, so that we always have a pair handy for future projects. Normally we would spread out all the fun things in his kiwi crate over the course of a week or two, but for the purpose of this review we headed out to the front porch to enjoy some unseasonally gorgeous Oregon weather and to demonstrate just how amazing this service really is. I could talk about our crate all day, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking instead.

(If you decide to sign up for Kiwi Crate to try it yourself, you click any of the photos in this blog and use the code KC25 on check out to get 25% your very first month! Best of all, you can cancel anytime, no obligation to go past the 1st month or to be “on contract” for any length of time, so it’s no risk to give it a try. The code works on Kiwi Crates other boxes, like Tinker Crate, as well!)

 

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Kiwi Crate Family Brands >>

On My Bookshelf: My Top 5 Recommended Reads This Spring

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I know that reading is becoming more and more of a luxury as I’m balancing raising my family and running my business, but I still try to carve out intentional time for it. It’s no more possible to be a quality author who doesn’t read than it is to be a painter who’s never set foot in a museum or a world class athlete who doesn’t follow their own sport. It’s not about comparison or trying to be “the next so-and-so,” but there is something to be said for soaking up the finished product of those who excel at your chosen craft, to immerse yourself in inspiration and remember just what it is you’ve set out to accomplish. And so my own bookshelf has come to contain more and more acquisitions from women I admire, who have vulnerably poured their very selves onto the pages and offered them up to the general public for open consumption, in what I consider to be the ultimate act of bravery. Today I’m sharing with you my top five recommended reads from women such as this, and I hope they inspire you even a fraction of the way they’ve inspired me.

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Click to Purchase

If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers
by Hannah Brencher

I pre-ordered this book almost the day it became available on Amazon. If you have ever heard Hannah Brencher speak, or have read her incredible blog, then you know she is easily one of the most gifted wordsmiths of our generation. Every phrase is not only dripping with incredible wisdom, but it’s so deeply vulnerable and authentic that you can’t help but feel like you’ve known Hannah forever, and you’re immediately invested in her story. This book is her personal memoir, telling an incredible story of how she found purpose by leaving letters to strangers all over New York City, and eventually founded an international organization called The World Needs More Love Letters, bringing people to together to write thousands of letters and cards to those in need of encouragement. The book will inspire you to love deeper, dream bigger, and live with a passion for others in a whole new way.

 

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Click to Purchase

Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live On Purpose
by Lara Casey

This is the quintessential read for any woman who has a dream to do something bigger than herself, but simply doesn’t even know where to begin. How do you go from the day to day routine to making huge things happen and dreams come true? Lara helps us learn how to break down goals into achievable steps, let go of our crippling fears, and finally leave the excuses behind as we step into the life we never knew possible. She also markets a corresponding product called Power Sheets that can help you apply what you’ve learned in the book and start converting your dreams into actions.

 

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Click to Purchase

Yes Please
by Amy Poehler

Have you ever watched Amy Poehler on television and thought, “She’s so cool I wish she was my best friend.” Well as silly as it sounds, when you walk away from her book you almost feel like she is. Amy certainly wasn’t messing around when she penned her debut book, as it’s full of personal details, intimate thoughts, and a signature brand of honesty that makes you feel less like you read a book and more like you had a date over coffee..scratch that, over margaritas. You wont be able to see the funny girl quite in the same way, but you’ll definitely love her even more.

 

 

 

 

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Click to Purchase

Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity
by Jen Hatmaker

Although she is far better know for her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Interrupted is in many ways far more personal and powerful. In fact, Hatmaker herself even admits within the pages that when fans ask her which one book of hers they should read, it always comes hands down back to this one. Jen has the most unique ability to perfectly walk a tightrope between the sacred and the sarcastic, and in doing so shares powerful truths within layers of laugh out loud wit and real life stories of the messy reality of real life ministry. The book is downright challenging, but never sanctimonious, and it’s near impossible to walk away from it without having your very perspectives of faith and religion shaken and reconstructed from the ground up. It’s so powerful in fact that I never seem able to hold on to a copy for very long, as I’m known to excitedly give them away to others almost as soon as I finish it. I find I could read it every year and consistently glean something new, and Im planning to read it again – as soon as I get my hands on another copy.

 

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Click to Purchase

Restless: Because You Were Made for More
by Jennie Allen

Have you ever hidden your dreams away because somehow you felt that you should always be content and never want more? Ever tried to talk yourself out of feeling that restlessness because you were convinced that following God meant ignoring your own dreams and passions in order to be fully dedicated to His plan? Jennie Allen has eloquently tackled this all too pervasive struggle asking, “What if this feeling wasn’t a bad thing? It could be a longing for more of God and a catalyst to living the life that was designed before the foundations of the earth were laid.” Using the Biblical story of Joseph the Dreamer, Jennie helps guide us through identifying our passions, our giftings, our hopes and dreams, and even our deepest pains,all with the purpose of seeing the bigger picture – how they all weave perfectly together in God’s greater purpose for our life. The book is empowering, and reading it leaves you more aware that you were created with a purpose, and that your passions and dreams are anything but random, but markers pointing the way to your full potential, and ultimately to your greatest callings.

Ultimate 30th Birthday Wishlist

It’s officially my birthday week! This Wednesday I am turning the big 3-0. Whoah. I guess I have to finally admit I’m a real grownup now right? (If the mortgage and two kids wasn’t convincing enough…)

If you follow along on The Joy Parade instagram, you may already know that my family is in the middle of a pretty major faith walk right now. This last summer God called our family to leave everything we have known and move to a whole new state, buy a home, and start a very different and much more intentional life. It’s been an amazing journey, one I plan to continue chronicling on the blog. Over the holidays there was a pretty significant twist in the story though, in which the company my husband works for let us know that due to financial constraints they were going to have to make some personnel and salary cutbacks – which is a fancy way of saying “We’re broke, so you’re fired.” So here we are in beautiful Oregon, having successfully left the chaos of the Silicon Valley behind, looking for the exact type of jobs that are most centrally located in… well, the Silicon Valley. God loves the humor in a good irony I think. In the mean time that leaves us with a monthly income of exactly $0 and a beautiful dance between fear and faith as we walk out our Joy Parade in the midst of a whole lotta crazy.

So all of this to say, it’s not the best time to be celebrating a milestone birthday. The original plan was to take our first ever vacation as a couple and return to Mexico, the scene of our honeymoon, and ring in the 30’s with a big old margarita in a swim-up bar. The new plan for turning 30 involves some well loved yoga pants, a cheap bottle of wine, and total control of the remote while I binge on some Netflix. It doesn’t mean a girl can’t indulge in a little fantasy window shopping though, and Pinterest makes this easier than ever in the digital age.  (In fact I keep a running “Wishing and Swooning” board on Pinterest. It’s a great way for husbands to know what you have your eye on when a gift occasion comes around.) I have hope that someday our situation will be better, and a belated birthday gift will someday come my way. So I’ve assembled a fantasy wish list of some of the pretty little things that make my mama heart swoon and who knows, maybe someday down the line I’ll be able to pick something from my list and celebrate this new decade in style. A girl can dream right? <3

Birthday Wishlist

 

1 – Raskog Cart | Ikea | $29.99
Isn’t she a beauty? I have boxes of craft supplies and stationary items sitting in boxes and bags in my garage just waiting for some sort of official home in my office. And the color even matches my office perfectly! I’ve seen some amazing uses online for this cart – a bar cart, a craft caddy, a rolling art station for kids: it’s possibilities are endless.

2 – Stitch Fix Gift Certificates | Stitch Fix | $20 and up
I’m a regular Stitch Fix user and I have been beyond thrilled with most of the pieces my stylist has chosen for me. There have been times though that something gorgeous will come in my box and my referral points aren’t enough to pay for it and the budget just says no. It’s never fun sending goodies back when they are “keepers” in your eyes. Stitch Fix gift certificates make a great gift for any gal, whether she’s a regular subscriber or a first time user.

3 – Hunter Rain Boots | ShopBop | $148
Moving from California to Oregon brought one main difference – water falls from the SKY here you guys. Like free water just comes out of nowhere. It’s amazing. Needless to say I’m totally unprepared for this sort of thing. Would you believe I dont own a pair of real rain boots? I bought snow boots when we got here, and since they are waterproof I’ve been using those for now. But in terms of rainboots, Hunter is the gold standard. Aidan has a pair and they have held up to a couple years of all out little boy abuse, and are no worse for the wear. And these gorgeous glossy red ones would be the statement piece of any rainy day ensemble. TOO gorgeous.

4 – Gilded Portable Charger | Nasty Gal | $40.00
This gorgeous portable charge is the size of your average lipstick but contains enough kick to fully recharge an iPhone battery to 100% power. The best part of this particular charger though is that unlike a majority of its competitors, you don’t need to provide a cord. In fact, the cord it comes with is tiny and compact, and has three different plug types so you can charge just about any device you may own. It’s gorgeous AND practical – a total win.

5 -Tory Burch for FitBit Bracelet | ShopBop | $195.00
If this truly is a fantasy wish list, this item simply had to be included. Isn’t it stunning? Take any FitBit armband and convert it into a beautiful piece of statement jewelry, without effecting its functionality. I love the idea of making the athletic device less conspicuous and converting it into part of your ensemble. And it’s Tory Burch – need I say more?

6 – Leather Loop Key Fob | Henri Bendel | $38.00
I’ve been on the lookout for a chic and practical keychain with a sophisticated flair, and this one certainly fits the bill. I adore the classic chocolate and white signature strip of Henri Bendel, and it looks exceptionally beautiful on this leather key chain. Plus I would love the added practicality of being able to slip the loop around my wrist when running a quick errand that doesn’t require dragging my entire purse along.

7 – Madewell Transport Tote | ShopBop | $168
What better gift to celebrate coming into your 30’s than a quality handbag? I mean sure, I love a good deal from Target, but there is something to be said for owning a classic bag that will match almost everything and can last you well past your 30’s and beyond? I’ve been not so secretly swooning over this tote from Madewell for a long time. I’ve actually handled one of these beauties and the leather is simply heavenly. You can even get the bag monogrammed by Madewell for $10, for an extra chic touch.

8 – Cannon 6d with 24-105L | Amazon | $2,399
A full frame camera and an L series lens? Enough said. I love my little 7d and my starter lenses, but Im definitely dreaming of the day I can make the jump to a professional level DSLR. Can’t say it’ll be in the budget anytime soon, but having tested this set up out for myself I can say it’s absolutely worth the investment. If you’re thinking of getting a DSLR to capture your own authentic moments, this one is absolutely my top recommendation. It’s the most affordable of Canon’s full frame offerings, but certainly not lacking in function.

9 – Tortoise Royale Necklace | Charming Charlie | $15.00
I’m always a fan of a great statement necklace. It instantly takes a t-shirt and jeans to a whole new level of style and sophistication. And I have my eye on this affordable little beauty from Charming Charlie right now. Small price tag but BIG style points.

10- L’Eau de Chloe | Nordstrom | $70.00 for 1.7 oz, $90.00 for 3.4 oz
As much as I love my Body Shop coconut or grapefruit body sprays, they lack a certain sophistication that a beautiful bottle of high end fragrance brings. I used to own this fragrance year ago, and its absolutely enchanting: not too overpowering, fresh, bright, and perfect for Spring. A little spritz of a real fragrance completes any ensemble for a woman in her 30’s.

11 – Blogging Essentials Art Print | Jones Design Company | $24.00
I am a regular window shopper at the beautiful Jones Design Company website. So many beautiful pieces! This one would be absolutely on point for my office though, and is pretty perfect for me wouldn’t you say?

12 – Threshold Mirrored Accent Table with Drawer | Target | $79.99
My current bedside table? A cardboard moving box. Yeah… not exactly the chicest decor choice, but what can I say – the price was right! This glamorous little number from Target’s Threshold line would certainly be an upgrade though, and it matches the vision for our new master suite perfectly.

13 – Be Still Cotton Tote Bag | Kristin Schmucker | $28.00
I have been looking for a great cotton tote for some time now, and this one took my breath away. It would be perfect for throwing together a quick trip to the park, grabbing groceries, or taking the boys to the library. As an added bonus Kristin is a beautiful soul who runs her brand with character, so you can always feel great about the purchases made from her website.

(Disclaimer: some of the recommendations above contain affiliate links. This means if you click my links and purchase a recommended product, I may receive a commission from an affiliate. All opinions are entirely my own, and I have not been approached or compensated by any brands to be included in this article.)

How to Stitch Fix Like a Pro

 

If you haven’t yet heard of Stitch Fix let me be the first to tell you that this subscription box service is completely changing the face of shopping for women everywhere. Imagine items handpicked especially for you by a personal stylist, sent directly to your home for you to try on in your own time and with your own wardrobe, and whatever you don’t like you simply drop into a prepaid shipping bag and send right back. Now imagine the service itself is essentially free, because although they charge a $20 “styling fee” the fee is always applied to whatever you purchase from your box, so it ultimately costs you nothing. That my friends is EXACTLY what Stitch Fix provides.

As a mom with two little boys Stitch Fix has been one of the best things that ever happened to me, because it meant finally doing away with my least favorite aspect of shopping – dragging two little boys into a crowded dressing room with me while I cram myself in and out of ill fitting pants under unflattering florescent lighting while listening to them fight over my iPhone. Now I excitedly open my Stitch Fix packages in my own timing (aka: when no kids are around,) I can sip on a “mommy beverage” of choice, and effortlessly try pieces on in my own bedroom. I can even try putting them into outfits with items from my existing wardrobe to see how easily I could integrate the new pieces. No more digging through racks trying to narrow it down to styles I like, no more wonky mirrors or yucky lighting, and no more rushing to beat a toddler meltdown. Shopping became luxurious again, and its been heavenly.

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Let’s take a peek into my most recent fix to see what the service is really like.

For starters, every package comes beautifully branded and designed, which definitely adds to the overall experience of being spoiled.

Inside the box are your 5 hand chosen items, the return bag, a personalized note from your stylist, an invoice listing out each items price breakdown, and an example card for each of the pieces showing 2 ways it could potentially by styled

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Open up the tissue to reveal the items your stylist has chosen!

I made a challenge to myself that I would try on every single piece my stylist sends, even if Im not a fan at first look. And let me say: that challenge has paid off. Sometimes my stylist seems to know whats going to fit my shape even better than I do. Plus it can be fun to try something new and step out of a fashion rut – you might surprise yourself!

 

Here are the items I received this fix. All 5 were definitely “keepers” for me.

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So now that we have seen the ins and outs of Stitch Fix, lets get down to the juicy stuff – how to get the MOST out of this service. I’ve boiled it down to my top 4 tips.

1) Your most important tool is your Pinterest board – hands down.

When filling out your style profile during your Stitch Fix sign up, they give you the option to link to a single Pinterest board. This board is hands down the most important key to getting the most out of your fix. Make sure that this board is dedicated only to styles you would want your stylist to consider when putting together your fix. It can even be helpful to create a separate board you use solely for tracking styles you are most interested in for your current fix, especially if you like to pin a variety of fashion related photos just for fun. Keep your board up to date, deleting things you are no longer interested in or have already purchased something similar to and aren’t looking to receive in your shipment. Most importantly, don’t overlook the caption on your pins. Use that space to point out the specific why’s and how’s of what you’re pinning. A great example would be to say “I love the print and the style of this blouse, maybe not with that type of collar though.” Or you could say “I have pants just like these already, so a jacket like that would be perfect in my next fix!”
(You can see my board here: https://www.pinterest.com/thejoyparade/lookbook/)

2) Find a stylist who gets you, and then request to STAY with them.

Whenever I hear someone say they haven’t been happy with their fix my advice is always the same: change stylists. Between every fix you have a chance to write a note to your stylist to give them extra info for that particular fix. Type *NEW STYLIST PLEASE* as the very first line in this box and you are guaranteed to have your account passed to a new stylist. Don’t worry about hurting feelings, this is a job, and the stylists at stitch fix are not in any way offended if you move to someone new. The service employs so many stylists with so many different tastes and preferences, so its essential you find a stylish you feel like really understand your personal style and can accurately reflect them in your fixes. When you find someone you mesh with, go back to that note to stylist feature and write *SAME STYLIST PLEASE* at the beginning of your request. The longer you stay with a stylist you love, the more they understand your style and can expertly pick your pieces.

3) Find out what others are getting in their fixes, and request items that catch your eye.

This is a tricky one. Please note that just because you request a specific item doesn’t actually guarantee they will have that item in your size when it comes time to style your fix. So always be flexible when making requests. That being said, you absolutely can request to receive specific items in your fix, and even if they don’t have the particular item on hand it can really help your stylist to figure out what sort of items appeal to you most. The BEST way to see what other fixers are getting is to head on over to Instagram and scroll through #stitchfix. If you see an item you love and the poster hasn’t said what it was called, don’t hesitate to comment on the picture with a simple request for details. A great example would be “Hey, that skirt is so gorgeous! Can you let me know what its called so I can request it in my next fix? Thanks!” I’ve employed this method many a time and fellow fixers have always been great about letting me know. You can also search on Pinterest for “Stitch Fix” or queries like “Stitch Fix Top,” “Stitch Fix Review,” or “Stitch Fix Spring.” Just know that with Pinterest its a lot harder to ensure the items you are being shown are current, so you may end up falling in love with items from a previous season. Instagram is a better way to see the most current items available. If you do find an item you’d like to request, include it in the note to stylist feature we discussed earlier. You can also search for the item on Pinterest and add it to your Stitch Fix board if its on there.

4) Don’t worry about being polite, your stylist would prefer you be SPECIFIC.

This is absolutely the number one mistake people make with their stitch fix. There is limited space for writing both your feedback on your checkout survey and your notes to your stylist each fix. Utilize this space wisely ladies. Don’t worry about your grammar, your tone, or pleasantries. If you want your stylist to really nail your fix, you have to be as specific as possible. This is most important in your checkout surveys. When you don’t like a piece, be extremely specific as to why. Did it fit horribly on your hips? Was it a total oddball choice for your style? Did the fabric choice remind you of a clearance rack at a dress barn? Don’t hold back. Your stylist can take it: I promise. This is their job, and they WANT to get your style figured out, so don’t ever withhold valuable information in the name of being polite.  

So that’s it folks: all the tricks, tips, and tools you need to Stitch Fix like a pro.

Leave a comment below letting me know if you’ve tried Stitch Fix, if you have any insider tips of your own, or if any of my advice has helped you get the most out of your future fixes. One lucky commenter will be randomly selected on February 12th to receive Joy Pack of items hand picked by yours truly that are sure to brighten your day.