Five

Christmas Countdown : 5 Days

With less than a week to go until Christmas, it's time to break out the DIY gift ideas. Handmade gifts are actually frequently the best kind of gifts. They are one of a kind and made specially with the recipient in mind. What says "I love you" more than a personalized gift? And no one does DIY (in my opinion) better than Geneva Vanderzeil of a Pair & a Spare.

Here are links to some of her most giftable projects like a tulle skirt for your little sister, an embroidered trip map for your travel buddy, a hardware clutch for your BFF, a vintage style frame for your brother, and hanging baskets for mom. For more inspiration you can check out all Vanderzeil's projects here.

However, if you are really strapped for time or cash there is one DIY project you're bound to already have the supplies for. Thought up by my brilliant sister Liz, these tampon ornaments are sure to be the hit of the day. Or at least they were for us. I don't recommend making these for your man friends, but your lady friends and family will find them just as charming as we did. All you need is a box of tampons, felt, embroidery thread or yarn, googly eyes, a sharpie, glue, and scissors. 

Just loop the pull and attach it to the top of the tampon with glue, along with embroidery thread for the hair. Next add on the eyes (which you can obviously do with a sharpie if you don't have googly eyes), mouth, and other extras like glasses. If you really want to get fancy you can add clothes like my sister did in the wedding ornament version she made for her and her husband. If I remember correctly the mini wedding dress came off a 3D card and the tux is made of construction paper. Lastly, write the names of the recipients on the back in either a colored sharpie or glitter paint if you have it. And voila! A one of a kind ornament sure to at least give your friends a good laugh.

see more DIY gift ideas on Lady Gray here, here, and here.

Seven

Christmas Countdown : 7 Days

With all the sales and ads and emails this time of year, it's hard not to get wrapped up in the idea that gifts are the most important part of the holidays. But when everything has been opened and admired and your credit card bill finally arrives, most of the thrill of gift giving will be over. It's nice to take a step back every now and then to reflect on everything you already have and how wonderful things have been. No matter how difficult your year may have been, there is someone out there who would give anything to be in your shoes.

a series of Portuguese friendship bracelets available at  LiveWorldly.com

a series of Portuguese friendship bracelets available at LiveWorldly.com

This holiday season why not take some of that positive energy and give back to those less fortunate. There are always the good standbys whether you volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate old clothes and nonperishable food, or write a check for your favorite organization. But there are other ways to help as well. For example, why not combine your holiday shopping with the spirit of charity? Companies like Amazon Smile and Live Worldly (as seen here) make it easy to give gifts to the ones you love while also giving back to those in need. Live Worldly, in particular, donates proceeds from every sale back to the communities from which the products came and directly to those issues the people find most important. For some it's clean water, for others education, and for still others it is protecting the environment.

Read my article for Zink Magazine here to learn more about the charitable efforts of Live Worldly, and shop some of their best pieces below (with 2-3 day shipping, they're guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas). Also check out these websites for more ways to give back this holiday season:


SHAUNS Sunglasses (for every pair of glasses purchased the company donates a pair of prescription glasses to someone in need)

ASOS Africa (creates fair jobs in some of the poorest Kenyan communities, more information here)

WeWood (makes watches of recycled wood and plants a tree for every timepiece purchased)

TOMS (with every purchase the company donates a pair of shoes or prescription glasses to someone in need)

Falling Whistles (proceeds go towards mentoring entrepreneurs and creating jobs in the Congo)

Treasure & Bond Nordstrom Pop Up (donates 5% of every purchase to organizations that empower women and girls)

Gift Guide : Secret Santa Under $25

"I'm sorry that people are so jealous of me, but I can't help it that I'm so popular." Thanks Gretchen Wieners for that heartfelt apology. In all seriousness though, for a lot of people buying gifts for all their friends would send them into major debt and just isn't a practical option. But with the introduction of Secret Santa, all your friends get a gift and no one has to go broke! A Happy Holiday solution for everyone! Here are some of my favorite Secret Santa gift ideas, all for under $25.