Last year, I did my first-ever gift guide and y’all loved it so much (and so did I) that I decided to do it again!
On Thanksgiving Day, as I scrolled through my Instagram feed I was so tempted to fall prey to all the sales! and the deals! and the really, really good things on the interwebs! Because, truly, there are so many wonderful creators out there making some fabulous things for our homes, our families and our lives. The key that I have to remind myself every year is simple:
Is it something useful and purposeful and will it bring joy to my life?
If it causes me stress trying to figure out how to pay for it or if it’s an impulse buy that I will later regret (hangs head in shame), then perhaps I need to really pray about whether bringing said gift into my home is the right choice or not. Only you know what should be under your Christmas tree and at the top of your giving list. I share all these ideas in that spirit, because many of them have been lovely gifts for people I love or they have greatly increased my sanity. Seek peace this season and shop with intention. It makes all the difference.
I’ve included direct links for the products listed below (some of which are affiliate links), but I do not take that lightly. I only recommend and share things that I really love. Holler if you have any questions. And, if you’re a small business, please share your company link in the comments so my readers can patronize your business!
We are all busy, amiright? I prefer to say active, but whatever. These ideas are the three things I use to unwind and simplify life. I discovered Tieghan’s cookbook, Half Baked Harvest, after watching her brother win a gold medal in the winter Olympics. I LOVE this cookbook. The flavors (and her photos) are out of this world. Dr. Teals has become my go-to stress reliever after long days. Less calories than beer. Ha! And, it pairs oh-so-nicely with a heavenly candle from Providential Co. Her stuff is unique and so well made.
At least once a month a friend emails and asks me what they should do to prepare for a pilgrimage. Oh, how I could write a book! Instead, I’ll just share my top three. Hands down, Flytographer. They have photographers stationed all over the world and the photos they return back to you (in 3-5 days!) are spectacular. I can’t recommend them enough – we’ve used them four times! This Flytographer coupon is good for $25 off with “kathrynwhitaker.” This book is solid gold. A friend gave it to us years ago and it has come in so handy. It’s like Rick Steves for Catholic shrines. The L’Osservatore Romano has a photo service that allows you to purchase pictures taken at the Vatican. So, if you’re along the Pope’s route (or if you really loved the papal event you attended), you can now own the photos! It’s fabulous.
We played Kan Jam this summer at my best friend’s house in North Carolina and the kids absolutely loved it. It’s an active game that keeps everyone engaged. Who doesn’t love cornhole? I think it’s big in the south and midwest (you east and west coast gals will have to let me know). Victory Tailgate literally has 1,000+ designs for both collegiate and pro sports, plus, they have a ton of other games that you can personalize. Then, there’s Catholic Family Crate. You can purchase a quarterly subscription, just order a one-time box, or make it in a mini size. Lots of choices. We got to try one out this summer and it kept my kids occupied and happy. Total winner!
For those of us who live in the south, we live, eat and breathe football. We used to live just a few blocks away from where they filmed all the stadium scenes for Friday Night Lights. So, when I saw this box set of the entire series, I was all YES PLEASE #rigginsforever My sweet real-life friend, Kelly, started her own handbag business and totally knocked it out of the park with her Kelly Wynne clear handbag, perfect for football games. And, it comes in lots of color combinations. You can order it directly from her, or on the Nordstrom website. I’ve known Kelly since she was in high school and she puts her whole heart in her designs! Go ahead and pair that crossbody purse with the sweetest of tees from Sweet Tees. I own way more of their shirts than I should admit. And I love every single one.
Did somebody say BBQ? Obviously, we are BIG fans here at Casa Whitaker. Scott’s friend, Daniel (also the BBQ Editor for Texas Monthly magazine), wrote a fantastic book on the evolution of BBQ, full of his observations and mouth watering photos. You’ll want to hit the BBQ trail posthaste after you read Prophets of Smoked Meat. Go ahead and grab your YETI Colster (I won’t tell anyone if it’s a Dr Pepper or a can of Shiner in there). The wife of one of the pitmasters at Stiles Switch here in Austin came up with her own Barbecue Wife bloody mary mix (she has a margarita mix, too) and it is off-the-hook amazing. Don’t blame me when you smell like good barbecue! You can also read about our crazy trek around the state to taste it all here.
I’m no makeup maven, but these three products are on my eternal “lovelovelove” list. I’ve had the Clarisonic for years and nothing cleans my face better. I swear by it. I’m one of those people who deep cleans her face every evening and then moisturizes her skin twice a day. It really is the secret to a healthy face. I discovered Definicils mascara by Lancome a few years ago and while I’ve tried other ones, I keep coming back to this one. I use waterproof, but that’s because it’s almost always warm and it rarely dries out my lashes. The color intense lipstick from Beauty Counter is new to my regimen, but I have never worn a long-lasting lipstick that moisturized my lips AND didn’t cake on after a few hours. This one is the real deal. So happy I discovered it!
Moving your body is so good for your mental health and your waistline. Earlier this fall, I participated in Cami’s Inside Out Training workout plans, specifically “More Than Sweat.” Hoo boy, she meant business. But unlike other workout plans, she also included food plans and there was an app that allowed you to track it all and tailor the workouts to your skill level. I love this program. Brickhouse in the City has the cutest tanks (she also has a ton of equally awesome t-shirts). You can see the joy in her designs and that’s what I love about them. I discovered K-Deer leggings when I first started working out at Pure Barre. Not only are they super cute, but proceeds from each pair are donated to different causes. The ones above, the “Izzy,” benefit the National Park Service.
Zipper bedding from Beddy’s bedding? Yes, please. I know I have this under ideas for littles, but we’re getting ready to do this in my big girls room, too! When we got our box from Catholic Family Crate this summer, I discovered these gems from Almond Rod toys. They are Gianna’s absolute favorite. And, if you’re looking for whimsical art for your child’s room, I absolutely adore these prints from Creative Almanac.
If your tween/teen girls are like mine, they doodle all day long. My Sharpies are officially out of ink! I was so happy to find these dual brush pens on Amazon. Thanks, Prime. When we were organizing life this summer, my girls stumbled upon these great bungee chairs from The Container Store. Admittedly? They were super comfortable. They’re on our wish list when we redecorate their room next year. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, then you know my deep and abiding admiration for James Avery jewelry. All of it. Some of their jewelry has been in my box for nearly 30 years and it still looks just as beautiful as it did back then. They truly are timeless pieces and I love them to bits! Plus, it’s Texas made. A total bonus in my book.
Finally, the hardest people on the planet to buy for – teenage boys! If your offspring tend to lose things, then the tile mate may be your new BFF. It doesn’t find lost brains, however. You’re on your own for that one. At our house a Whataburger gift card (or whatever their favorite restaurant is because LORD CAN THEY EAT) is a definite fan favorite. Yes, I know it’s a gift card, but truly this is one that won’t get lost. I didn’t link the toolkit (above) because I really think it depends on the kid. But this is a great gift for the kid about to go to college. Hit up Home Depot, Lowe’s or your local hardware store for the best one.