Christmas Gift Ideas (for the difficult ones)

Christmas is my FAVORITE.  I am one of those Christmas-crazed people that starts blasting Christmas music November 1st and plans my gifts year-round.  I realize getting and giving gifts is not the point of Christmas, but there is nothing that excites me more than finding the perfect gift that you know is going to make someone smile.

I keep setting the bar higher for myself because each year I feel like I have to do better than the year before! I’ve listed a lot of my gift ideas I’ve had this year (and in the past) that can give you some inspiration if you feel stuck!  In my mind, kids are much easier (and more fun) to shop for, but now that everyone in my family is an adult, I’ve had to get more creative!  I should also note I’m very anti-gift card – although I’m always happy to get one, I like to find a gift that is unique for that person.  If I can find something that is both personal and practical – I’ve hit a home run!

Tip 1: If you are shopping for the “person who has everything” ie. my father, who when he wants something, buys it himself…I suggest focusing on gifting experiences instead of physical objects!

Tip 2: Teens/Early 20’s can appear to be difficult to shop for because seemingly everything on their list will be some pricey electronic or a gift card. I like to focus gifts for this age group to be practical things that they just don’t have the extra money to buy!

Gift Ideas

  • Tickets – Concert tickets, movie tickets, comedian tickets, and sporting event tickets can be awesome gifts for someone.  Most people have a favorite band or football team and if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, movie tickets can be an easy, yet thoughtful gift you know that someone will enjoy!  You can even pair the tickets with memorabilia for the team/artist like a t-shirt.
  • Photo gifts – Shutterfly (or similar websites) have unique photo gifts at a variety of price points.  You can get picture pillows or blankets made, calendars, wall canvases, or even coffee mugs.  Picture frames are also an item that most people hate to spend money on but love to receive. You could even take it a step further and get surprise family photos taken!  (FYI these all make amazing grandparent gifts)
  • Tumblers – Maybe I’m the only one but I always stroll down the tumbler/mug aisle at Target and want them all.  Some tumblers like Tervis, Thermos, or Hydroflask brands can be $20-$50 but it is a gift that you know will be loved and used often! Starbucks always has super cute tumbler/mug designs in their stores too.  Pair it with a coffee gift card, some tea, or K-cups and you have a gift any teen would like!
  • Socks – Everyone loves a good pair of socks (even me and I don’t wear them often) and they can be a fun add to any gift as you don’t usually need to know a specific shoe size.  Get them a pair with their favorite sports team, fuzzy socks, or check out Bombas!
  • Surprise Boxes – If you know the size of the person you are shopping for, many companies offer gift boxes or “surprise” boxes on their websites during Christmas time.  Instead of a gift card, get them a gift set that you pick out instead. (Victorias Secret PJ Sets, Ivory Ella Surprise Boxes, and Lush gift sets are some of my favorites)
  • Subscriptions – Subscription boxes are a hot item right now and there is one for pretty much anything! Meal Subscriptions like Hello Fresh, Fab Fit Fun boxes, Dollar shave club boxes, wine boxes, etc.  You could even send a box from companies like Fabletics, Omaha Steaks, or Bark Box for their beloved fur baby.  Yearly subscriptions to Amazon Prime, a magazine, or Disney+ could be a very useful gift too!
  • Ancestry/DNA Tests – A subscription to Ancestry online could be a cool learning experience for someone who wants to learn more about where they came from.  Another great gift idea is the DNA tests you can take through Ancestry or 23 and Me to learn more about yourself.
  • Makeup – This one really only works if you know the person you are shopping for is into makeup…but Kylie Lip Kits, Eyeshadow Palettes (like Naked or Modern Renaissance) or even just a few high-quality items like nice mascara, lipstick, or face masks can be really awesome gifts!
  • Jewelry – This is often one of my go-to’s and can be easily personalized.  I love fun statement pieces like earrings from Kendra Scott.  Bracelets or rings from Alex & Ani can be easily personalized as well because they have everything from Disney quotes to Sports teams.  My Name Necklaces or coordinate necklaces are always cute and can be personalized online. If you know someone who has recently lost a loved one, you can also find fingerprint necklaces and other unique pieces.
  • Sports Memorabilia – Any sports team can be an easy way to find the perfect gift.  You can buy anything from an autographed picture or wall canvas, to a sports jersey, sweatshirt, hat or an Alex & Ani bracelet as mentioned above.
  • Blankets/Throw Pillows – This is one of those gifts that I think everyone loves to get.  There is nothing better than a snuggly blanket or adorable throw pillow. I hate spending $30 on a throw pillow for myself, but it makes a great gift!
  • Plants/Planters – I have a black thumb so this gift doesn’t always come to mind, but for people who love to garden getting them some cute planters could be a unique gift.  Many people (like my 20 year old sister) would also like to get a bamboo or succulent plant for their apartment.
  • Tool Boxes – This one is inspired by my Dad because he came up with this idea one year and I found it to be very practical.  Most people in their early 20s do not have a good selection of tools when they move into their first apartment or house.  Filling a tool box with things like a hammer, measuring tape, electric screwdriver, flashlight, wrenches, screws, nails, etc. is a great idea!
  • Car Cleaning Kit – Many stores sell car cleaning products or bundles and you could pair it with a gift card for car washes and/or car air fresheners for the everyday car-lover.
  • Candles/Smelly Stuff – Candles are probably one of the most popular gift ideas, but things like Scentsy warmers, candle votives, or even fancy car air fresheners can make good gifts for pretty much anyone.
  • Tupperware/Bakeware – Maybe this seems crazy, but I love to cook and I sure do love getting a new set of tupperware containers.  Pyrex sets are always nice too and if you want to get fancy you could even get a nice baking dish from a place like Le Creuset.  I love cookbooks so I’ll just throw that in as an idea too for those that love cooking!
  • Items with a Good Cause – If you know the person you are shopping for likes eco-friendly products and/or items that support a good cause, check out websites like 4 Ocean, Bombas, Ivory Ella, Love Your Melon, and Toms.  If you’re shopping for a vegan like my sister, you can even “adopt” animals (like a Manatee) in someone else’s name!
  • Home Decor/Ornaments – Ever go into a store like Pier One Imports or Hobby Lobby and just see so much “cute” stuff?  Go browse one of these stores and I’m sure you can find something for the person you are looking for. Personalized ornaments are great too! Online, Etsy is also an amazing place to find hand-made gifts and support small shops.  (Check out the custom holiday wreaths – they’re my favorite and they have one for every season!)

Hopefully this will help you with even the most difficult person on your list or give you some inspiration on how you can better personalize your gift-giving! Happy Shopping 🙂

 

The Curse of Working Out

It is official.  I believe I have a curse.  A few months ago, I was so proud of myself because I got to the last phase of an 80-day workout program.  It’s called 80 Day Obsession, and if you haven’t heard of it, it is so amazingly awful that checking off all 80 days is a huge accomplishment I was looking forward to.  It tested me beyond belief yet made me excited about working out.

This is when the curse hit first.  During one of my workouts, I set down a 10 pound dumbbell on my couch.  You know how much people talk about weight lifting safety? Well, it turns out it is important. The dumbbell rolled off the couch and dropped on my right foot fracturing two of my toes.  OUCH is all I can remember, but I was also SO disappointed that I had to stop working out. I was so close to the finish line and couldn’t follow through.

Fast forward a month of resting and healing my toes, I was ready to exercise again. A new program had launched, this one 100 days long!  I was up for the challenge and so excited to commit to it. Day 79..that is when the curse hit for the second time.  I was only 21 days away from finishing…

I’ve been selling a lot of things on Facebook Marketplace in preparation for moving to a new place when my apartment lease is up in April. I was meeting a man parked outside with the items he purchased from me when I tripped over the curb and rolled my right ankle.  To add to my embarrassment, this kind stranger caught me as I was falling – it would have been romantic had he not had a wife and kids waiting in the car for him.

So I am officially 0/2 on finishing workout programs and it is so disappointing I decided it HAS to be a curse. But in all seriousness, this mindset just proves to me how far I have come in my health journey.  In my “fat” days I would have given ANYTHING to have a doctor tell me I couldn’t exercise.  Now, when I can’t workout I miss it!  (I also miss dessert because I usually have to cut that out of my diet when I’m not burning tons of calories!)

In case you are curious on my next steps it is all a little unknown…I went to the doctor today for my ankle sprain and was referred to a podiatrist who I will meet with on December 4th.  I’m hoping I won’t need surgery, but due to being a pointe dancer growing up, my ligaments are stretched out which is why I’m so prone to ankle sprains.  I have tried physical therapy in the past with no luck – but I’m hoping there may be another option!  Maybe one of these days I WILL get the chance to finish a workout program 🙂

The One Where Kaitlyn Paints…

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When I joined Finance at Disney almost two years ago,  I also signed myself up to be a member of “FinancEARS” which is basically a group of Disney VoluntEARS but exclusively for Finance Cast Members. This has been by far one of my favorite parts of my job and yesterday I got to PAINT A MURAL!

There are so many amazing organizations out there and this one is called Foundation for Hospital Art. Their goal is to make hospitals beautiful!  The Foundation sells art kits for purchase that come with a mural, paint, and all the tools.  You can choose which mural design you paint (we chose Disney themed, of course) and then you get to paint it yourself.  It was like a giant paint by number!art1

I was really worried about how I would do because I am pretty darn awful at painting.  I joke that my artistic skills are less than the average kindergartener…but really…they are.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out!  It was not nearly as difficult as I was imagining, although I probably shouldn’t tell you that so you can be impressed by my Picasso-like skills (notice the paint on my face – I got really into my work). 

art4Even though I did not do a perfect job, once we went back over the lines with the black marker they provided for corrections – it looked great!  Once you finish letting all of the canvases dry you mail them back to the Foundation to do some touch-ups (I’m sure they weren’t needed on ours lol) and then they go on display in a hospital!

Overall, it was a very fun activity for such a wonderful cause!  We are planning to do it again as a group early next year and I cannot wait.

I love being part of a company that LOVES to give back to the community as much as I do.

HOLY GRAIL Products for your Pooch

If you don’t know yet, I am a crazy dog lady.  Last year, when I was living by myself for the first time, I got really lonely.  I had never lived without a roommate.  Although I was happy to avoid the hot mess that inevitably happens when you live with a stranger you meet on the internet, my apartment felt way too quiet.

I very badly wanted another Golden Retriever as our family Golden, Molly, had passed away a couple of years prior.  I decided to “treat myself” for Christmas and I managed to find myself a Golden pup on a Kissimmee Craigslist post (yes, I was desperate). IMG_0819

Mowgli is my soul mate.  We have such similar personalities that if he wasn’t covered in fur, I would think he came from my very own uterus. This past year I’ve tried soooo many dog products (he’s a tad spoiled) so I wanted to compile a list of all of my faves!  If I did it all again, these are the products I would ABSOLUTELY, hands down be purchasing.

Harness

Mowgli has been a really good dog…and I’m not just saying that because I’m his mother, overall he has very good behavior.  The only issue I have had is with walking him on a leash.  He pulls…so badly…and no matter what I have tried (treats, stopping, etc.) nothing breaks him of it.  One night at the dog park a little old lady told me I was nuts that I didn’t have a harness for him.  I always liked the look of dog collars better than a harness so I never even looked at purchasing one.  She said it would fix my problem of him pulling….and MAN that lady was right.  I highly recommend a harness instead of a collar – he is like a totally new dog on a leash!  I just grabbed mine on Amazon, but they are all a little different so make sure you don’t tear of the tags until you know it is right for your dog!

Amazon Dog Harness

Flexi Leash

After a harness, you need a good leash.  I love flexi leashes and have a hard time understanding why a lot of people don’t use them.  It lets Mowgli run around and sniff without me being dragged along too.  I got his off of Chewy and when he chewed through the leash as a puppy they even sent me a new one free of charge!  Talk about great customer service.  It will be the best 26 feet you ever purchase!

Chewy Flexi Leash

Dog Baggies

I always have a couple of dog baggies wrapped around the end of Mo’s flexi leash.  You never know when (or where) they will need to do their business and this saves you the embarrassment of it being in someones yard!  It is so much better to be prepared – just trust me!  These planet-friendly poop bags are super high quality, scented, and will last you a long time.  Don’t be the person that doesn’t pick up after their dog.

Chewy Poop Bags

Outdoor Bed

Mowgli is allowed on the furniture so I decided not to buy him a pet bed as I figured it would never get used.  However, because we live in Florida and I love to sit on my deck, I decided an outdoor bed would be nice for him.  I recently purchased this bed from Chewy – it was so simple to put together and Mo LOVES it!  It is also very affordable and doesn’t get gross when it rains.  It is his new favorite spot for keeping an eye on the neighborhood.

Outdoor Dog Bed

Nylabones

I started giving Mowgli rawhide bones when he was little because I am convinced it is in his DNA to love to chew.  It turns out the bones were splintering… and a $400 bill and a disappointed look from my vet made me realize I needed to find a better option.  Mowgli has had many different types of Nylabones and he has loved them all!  They are so strong and they even make flavored ones.  I ordered all of mine from Chewy – I’ll link a couple below!

Nylabone Dinosaur

Nylabone Wishbone

Bark Box

Bark Box totally got me with their marketing techniques via Facebook, but seriously…these things are so incredibly cute and a pretty darn good value!  Each box is about $20 but it comes with two toys, two bags of treats (USA made & natural), and a chew.   Every box has a “theme” and they are SO FREAKING ADORABLE.  It was also perfect for Mowgli because when he starts to get bored with his toys, new ones magically appear.  This is arguably more fun for you than your dog, but well worth the money!

Bark Box

Bissell Little Green

I saved this one for last because I call this my “secret weapon”. My step mom told me about this beauty and it has changed my life!  It is a portable spot cleaner (think mini carpet shampooer) and it works wonderfully if your pup has an accident inside the house.  Mowgli had his fair share of puppy accidents and this is the only thing that I feel actually “cleans” the carpet and removes the odor/stain.  It is very easy to use and doesn’t take up a lot of space.  It may seem a little pricey but it is WELL worth the money.  It works on upholstery too and can come in handy for any type of spill.  If you are getting a puppy…you NEED this.

Bissell Spot Remover

Hopefully one of these recommendations will be helpful to you!  Please leave a comment if you have any questions 🙂

Who Gives a Crap

I’ve been on a mission to find products that are not only better for the environment but are also high quality and affordable.  My sister stumbled across Who Gives a Crap and shared it with me and I can proudly say I have found my holy grail toilet paper.

Let me start with I never thought I’d get excited about purchasing toilet paper (nor did I think I’d be doing a photoshoot with it) but this brand has really WOW’d me.IMG_0650

I was intrigued when I found out that Who Gives a Crap was started because 2.3 billion people around the globe do not have access to a toilet.  According to their website, “That’s roughly 40% of the global population and means that around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s almost 800 children per day, or one child every two minutes.”

Who Gives a Crap currently produces toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels.  We ordered the 48 pack of the standard 3-ply jumbo roll toilet paper (for only $48 might I add) and it was delivered in a box directly to our front door.  Thats right…no more lugging toilet paper from the cart to the car and in my case, up the stairs to my apartment.

I was a little worried the paper we were ordering was going to smell funny or feel like sandpaper, but was pleasantly surprised when I felt how soft it was!  It feels like the Charmin (or the Great Value knock-off Charmin) I normally buy at Walmart.  Below is a comparison of the thickness.

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Great Value mega roll (left) vs. Who Gives a Crap jumbo roll (right)

Why is this paper so great? There are numerous benefits of switching to this toilet paper!

  • The paper is 100% recycled from books and office paper. No trees were killed, it uses less energy and water to produce, AND it is biodegradable.
  • The toilet paper is plastic free (even all the packaging) and it is CUTE!  Yes that is right, toilet paper can be cute.  They are individually wrapped in fun patterns and they even send “emergency rolls” so you know when to re-order.
  • It is shipped right to your door and orders over $25 ship for free!
  • There are different options but we purchased 48 rolls for $48 (or 25 cents for 100 sheets).  You can also subscribe and save $10!
  • There are no inks, dyes or scents so it is a great option for those with sensitivities.
  • My favorite benefit is that 50% of the profits are donated to help build toilets around the world.  You can wipe your butt and feel like you’re helping the planet!
  • They also offer a 100% money back guarantee so there is really no reason not to try it out.

After getting this first box I know I will be a long-time customer and I am very excited to try their tissues and paper towels as well.  I wanted to spread the word because I think the mission of the company and the quality of their product is unmatched by anything else I have found on the market!

Click Here to check out the Who Gives a Crap website

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(Please note I am in no way compensated to write this post)

Saving the Planet?

I was never one to proclaim that we need to “save the planet”.   I’ve heard of Polar Bears dying and glaciers melting and even turtles being affected by plastic straws…but I also never felt like my actions were causing the problem.  I didn’t feel the urgency to start a compost in my backyard or quit using ziplocks.

I was taught growing up to respect and appreciate nature…you know the normal things like not littering, recycling when you can, and understanding the importance of conservation.  However, it wasn’t until about a year ago that all this environmental stuff really hit me hard.

So what changed?!  The crazy thing is that what sparked me actually caring about my impact was when I experienced living alone for the very first time.  It didn’t take long for me to notice how much trash I was putting outside for collection every. single. night.

Bag after bag, day after day.  Some days I would put out multiple bags of trash…for ONE person.  It became absurd to me that I could produce this much waste. It made me start to worry about where everything I threw away was magically disappearing to.

Now typical me was alarmed at what was happening and I of course jumped to the most dramatic response.  I immediately began looking up how to go zero-waste on Pinterest. I was amazed at how some people live so simply and was inspired to start making some small changes of my own.

I am definitely not zero-waste (nor do I think I’ll ever go that far), but I have made some small changes that have made a noticeable impact on the amount of trash I produce.  I found that many of the small changes I made, were typically things that I had been doing out of sheer laziness.

Some of my small changes: I now avoid using aluminum foil and cook directly on a baking sheet, I stopped purchasing plastic straws, I use reusable containers to store leftovers/pack lunches instead of ziplocks, I pay attention to recycling symbols and recycle everything I can (I was shocked at how much is actually recyclable), I try not to buy without a purpose when I go to the grocery store so I won’t be throwing away expired food, and I pay more attention to the packaging when I purchase products.

Along with these small changes I have also started researching brands that create products that are both affordable and more environmentally friendly.  I do not believe that I am going to “save the planet”, but I did realize my excessive “trash problem” was easily reduced (by at least 50%) just by being aware and making a few painless changes.

I hope to share more of my favorite brands I have been researching as well as any DIY household products I try out in the Lifestyle section of this blog.  I may not be able to make a world of difference, but hey, if everyone made a few small changes imagine the difference we could make together.

 

New Content is Coming!

I started this blog during my Disney College Program to give myself a platform (or journal) of sorts to share all of the experiences I knew I was about to have.  I wanted a place where family and friends could come to visit and be able to share my experiences with me.

I soon found out that blogging, although fun, is a lot of work.  I set the blog aside and decided that Instagram would be my focus and the way I would share my stories because it was quick, and I was short on time.

Over the past few months I have found myself MISSING this blog so so much.  I have always loved to write and although it can be a lot of work at times, I have such respect for the blogging community.  I decided it was time for me to MAKE time for this.

My goal is to make this blog a priority again and that means new content.  Which once was a blog dedicated solely to Disney is now going to be more of a lifestyle blog focusing on all aspects of my life:  my dog Mowgli, my finance career at Disney, getting out of debt, exploring the world, my health & wellness journey, recipes, etc.   My life is crazy at times, and I want to share it all.

…stay tuned and please pardon the mess as the blog is going through changes! I’m so excited to be back 🙂