Thinking Thankful Thoughts After Thanksgiving

Casey of Dressed to Code pairs a swingy black t-shirt dress with blush leather lace-up heeled sandals, a gold and green pendent necklace, and a silver Apple watch.
It was warm and sunny in Southern California for Thanksgiving with family and friends, perfect for pulling out these two pieces.

When you think about it, the combination of Thanksgiving and the following (now overlapping) shopping days is more than a little contradictory. We spend a day thinking about everything we are thankful for and then participate in rampant acts of consumerism. I say we because I also took advantage of the sales to pick up some things I’ve had my eye on. (Spoiler alert: I think all the things I ordered are black tops. Oh, well.)

In the spirit of extending the critical period of thankfulness, I’m going to talk a little about Thanksgiving as everyone else has moved onto Christmas trees.

I’m thankful for things that work out.

We ended up booking last-minute flights to Southern California to join my family for Thanksgiving day. Long story short, our original flight was overbooked. However, if you saw my Instagram post, you also know that we ended up being upgraded to first class. Thanks, Delta! I can now say that I have successfully eaten soup while experiencing turbulence.

I’m thankful for family and friends.

Miraculously, we managed to pull off surprising my dad! Let’s just say that there were several seconds of stunned staring after he opened the door, followed by hugs all around.

On the big day, the house filled up with people, some of whom have been fixtures at the annual event for as long as I can remember. The kids gleefully frolicked in buckets of Legos, and the adults had a good-natured competition between two similar side dishes. I certainly wasn’t complaining about duplicates of sweet potatoes and stuffing, some of my favorites.

Casey of Dressed to Code pairs a swingy black t-shirt dress with blush leather lace-up heeled sandals, a gold and green pendent necklace, and a silver Apple watch.
I ate a lot of pie, but you’d never know with this great dress.

The weather was warm and sunny, so this comfortable, swingy Socialite dress from Nordstrom  was great for the eating marathon. My mom made me a special dairy-free version of her apple pie, which was fantastic. (I think I ate at least 50% of that pie by myself. No regrets.) I was also happy to have an occasion to pull out these Hinge ‘Drea’ sandals again.

I’m thankful for safe travels.

There are so many things I could list specifically, but most of all, I’m glad for this trip. I’m glad to have traveled safely, seen people (and pets) I care about, and had the means to do so. It’s so important to realize every day what privileges we have in this world. I have people who love me and a roof over my head, for starters.

I’m thankful for my homes.

My childhood home will always be home to me, but I’m also grateful for my new home here in Seattle. I have a warm and welcoming place with a person I love, and I’m excited to start new traditions together.

Casey of Dressed to Code pairs a swingy black t-shirt dress with a gold and green pendent necklace, and a silver Apple watch for a casual warm-weather Thanksgiving outfit.
This necklace is a costume piece from my great-grandmother, so it was a way to incorporate a little bit of family into my outfit.

Moving forward in the holiday season, I’m aiming to continue the spirit of Thanksgiving. I want to stop and appreciate what I have and who I love. After all, thankfulness, togetherness, and joyfulness comprise the essence of holiday magic.

What are you thankful for every day?

“It’s not enough to love if you don’t also appreciate.”

-Casey

The Anyone, Anytime Gift Guide: Part III

The Anyone, Anytime Gift Guide from dressedtocode.com

This is the third installment in a mini-series about gift-giving. Part I of the gift guide may be found here, and Part II may be found here.

We’ve already discussed giving gifts to perople you know and people you barely know. Therefore, we now come to what may be the least populated but most difficult category of all: people that you know so well that no present is ever going to express what they mean to you. Personally, the people that fall into this category include my parents, my significant other, and a few very close friends.

Let me start by warning you that some of the best gifts I’ve given must seem rather strange from the outside. That’s just it. An incredible present may be of such intimate significance as to make little or no sense to anyone else. However, if you know the recipient very well, it’s perfect. Because they matter to you, you should have an idea of what will put a smile on their face. Better yet, it could make them smile each time subsequent time they encounter it.

As an example, one of my mother’s favorite material gifts I have ever given her was a set (six or eight, I don’t remember) of french wine glasses from Crate & Barrel. Hers look like these, but without the bulge in the stem. To some, drinking glasses would be considered an impersonal gift. Nonetheless, to my mother, it was a useful quantity of well-designed, quality items that she appreciates and enjoys every day. She still occasionally thanks me for them. (Side note: my parents’ cats LOVE drinking out of the glasses because they think they’re being sneaky.)

That brings me to the first gift idea.

Get them something useful that they wouldn’t get themselves.

If your friend struggles with their $5 corkscrew every time they throw a party, a nice bottle opener and their favorite bottle of something might be just the thing. Depending on your current situation, you may not be able to spend a lot of money. You don’t need to. Go for something with a lot of thought that says you pay attention.

When my significant other insisted on buying decent knives for our kitchen, I thought it was a strange place to spend the budget. Now, I love and appreciate them with every use. Young people who may be stocking their first kitchen from family castoffs and thrift stores especially appreciate such items. This time of year, a quality cookie sheet and a silicone baking mat can go a long way. (If you haven’t used a silicone baking mat or silpat mat before, get one for yourself too!)

Silpat AE420295-07 Premium Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Half Sheet Size
If you bake on cookie sheets, this silicone baking mat is amazing for cutting down on burnt cookies and questionable cooking sprays.

My second gift idea involves a little more luck:

Get them something something incredibly them.

As another example, I have a dear friend who frequently wears pearls and also loves cats. I found a set of pearl earrings with cat ears that everyone else who knows her sees and declares to be perfectly her. This Nessie Ladle might be just the thing for the dinosaur-loving soup-maker in your life. You can find items like these by searching keywords of their interests. Unfortunately, this can be a time-intensive process, but “cats” and “pearls” eventually got me to a very good place.

S.Leaf Cat Ear Stud Earrings Freshwater Cultured Pearl Stud Earrings
These cat-eared pearl earrings were the perfect thing for a dear friend.

If you are in a good place financially, you may be better able to pull off the next gift idea:

Give the gift they always talk about but would never splurge on.

We all have that one item we find ourselves window shopping for or constantly pinning on Pinterest. You may know what that is for someone and be in a position to make it happen. A great raincoat or quality backpack can get expensive quickly if you’re on a budget. Nevertheless, they are both items I am glad I was able to invest in. Maybe their dream item is something frivolous that they can’t justify spending the money on and you can. Be careful here to walk the line between being able to make it happen and lording it over them.

If you don’t see this person as much as you’d like, consider:

Give them something sentimental.

Okay, it’s cheesy. So what? This is a person you care about. A nice photo in a frame of their taste might be the gift that warms their heart. While photos of you and the recipient are usually preferable, photos of young people are usually well appreciated by older relations. Many of us stop taking professional photos regularly after high school, but you can now take decent enough photos yourself. For less than a professional photographer, you can also find students who take beautiful shots.

TOGETHER FOREVER STRING CATS CARD Designer: Red Cap Cards
If someone is important to you, don’t be afraid to let them know it, maybe with this adroable together forever card.

Other sentimental items include hardcover copies of favorite childhood books for grandparents to then read to their grandchildren. I enjoyed an old copy of Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel as a kid.

Last but not least, consider this:

The best thing to give may not be a thing at all.

My partner is one of those people who are nearly impossible to shop for because they buy so little and already have what they desire. He was working out in the desert and had had a pen explode because of the heat. I gave him a Fisher space pen, not knowing at the time what a pen snob he is. It didn’t have an absurdly fine tip, so he didn’t use it. Fast forward two years, and he gave me a pen that he and a friend designed and made. Altogether, it not one of my better gifts. Now, years later in our relationship, I’ve given up. I no longer give him things.

Experiences and memories are an incredible gift, particularly if your time is scarce. Take a day together to do their favorite things, explore an old jaunt, or simply talk. Do something they love but you don’t. Try out that restaurant and don’t split the check. Restaurant-hop thought the night, getting your favorite course from each place. Enjoy each other’s company.

Lush greenery lines the trail in this photo taken at Cougar Mountain, Washington
If they already have everything they might want, give them memories.

What are your greatest gifts for the ones you love? Do they make any sense to anyone else? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

“Your love and care is the greatest gift of all.”

-Casey

The Anyone, Anytime Gift Guide: Part II

The Anyone, Anytime Gift Guide from dressedtocode.com

Welcome to Part II of the Anyone, Anytime Gift Guide. If you missed Part I, gifts for people you barely know, you can find it here. Moving on, Part II is a gift guide for people you know reasonably well. As in the first part, this gift guide is less about specific products and more about how to brainstorm better presents for the people on your list.

Watch and listen.

Yes, that really is the best advice I can give. Pay attention to your intended gift recipient, and they may very well show or tell you exactly what would make them happy.

Of course, keep in mind our society’s penchant for hyperbole in distinguishing whether they only “LOVE!!” it in the abstract or would actually love it in their living room. For example, there are plenty of items for which I have expressed enthusiasm but have no use or storage space. (A mixer is not one of those items. I would really appreciate a mixer, especially in matte black. Hint, hint.)

Consider how they spend their time.

For example, if they’re always watching their grandchildren, a beautiful book is always a great gift. Books also fall into the semi-consumable category, loved forever or donated to the local library and appreciated by countless others. If you are giving a “child’s” book to a grown adult, be sure to include a note explaining that you thought they could enjoy the book together.

As picture books for young children go, I loved some of the following books as a kid:

Overcoming Fear, Grandmother/Granddaughter: Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

Cover of Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
In Thunder Cake, a grandmother’s wisdom and secret recipe help a young girl overcome her fear.

Halloween: Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia Andrews

Hanukkah: Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel

Hanukkah and Christmas: Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco

I’ve also heard amazing things about Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, excellent for inspiring young girls.

I tend to prefer hardcover picture books, as they are often easier to hold up to show off the pictures.

Consider which everyday items facilitate the activities they enjoy.

For the active people in your life, there may be gear specifically suited to their sport or activity which can really add up. This is one of those ideas best coordinated with a parent or other highly-informed person, but can be an excellent choice for those with nothing down on their wishlist. (Similarly, if you’re a financially stable adult expected to give presents to nieces and nephews you last saw on their birthday a year ago, focusing on what you know can help you start a conversation with someone who can give you more specific ideas.)

Runners often need to replace shoes every few hundred miles, which could be every few months for a high-mileage runner. Frequently, someone who has found the proper shoe for their body (pronation, supination, and cushion are all key factors) will go back to the same shoe in the same size time and time again, which makes it an easier purchase than most sized items.

Black and white Nike Free RN (run) shoe, available at Nordstrom.
These Nike Free RN kicks are my current running and workout shoe, but also look sleek and neutral for a casual outfit or travelling. My pair in the closet are a size 7, so keep in mind that the sizing runs small.

Similarly, think about extra-cushioned yoga mats, brilliantly reflective vests and jackets for running and cycling, or a Discover Pass or Parks Pass to get outside.

Consider what they use.

This is similar to the previous bit of advice but includes they mundane things we use every day and often take for granted. Is there some small token which would would improve their everyday experience in some small way? Maybe it’s a travel coffee mug that actually keeps their coffee hot, a fuzzy blanket to keep them warm watching Netflix, or a stapler that actually staples their papers.

Consider what you use and enjoy.

Chances are, if this is someone you like enough to give them a gift, you have something in common. Therefore, consider giving them something you yourself use and enjoy. I’d happily give everyone on my list a Hydroflask water bottle because I use and love mine so much. Seriously, when the reviews say that you can leave it in a baking car all day and still come back to ice in your water bottle, believe them. I’ve done it.

Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle, Wide Mouth w/Flex Cap
These fantastically-insulated bottles come in a variety of colors and styles.

Most importantly, remember that at the end of the day, it really is the thought that counts. A gift is simply a gesture that you care about someone and want to present them with a token of that affection.

What’s an example of something you love so much you’d give it to everyone on your list? Tell me in the comments! Also, stay tuned for the third and final installment of the gift guide.

“Worry less about the things and more about the people.”

-Casey

The Anyone, Anytime Gift Guide: Part I

The Anyone, Anytime Gift Guide from dressedtocode.com

Just in time for the season of gifts, I am introducing this mini-series on gift-giving.

I pride myself on having given some truly spectacular gifts over the years. Certainly, that doesn’t mean every gift every time. Sometimes you just don’t have enough information, money, or time for the perfect gift. However, you can use these tips to give better gifts.

To kick off the series, I’m going to discuss the realm of gift giving with the most potential to be awkward: people you barely know.

It might seem weird to think about giving gifts to people you barely know, but these gifts usually end up being polite hostess gifts. Think sudden invitation to a friend of a friend’s house, your significant other’s family gathering, or a coworker’s housewarming. Don’t know if you should bring a gift? Emily Post has a guide, even if I don’t love all the gift suggestions. Obviously, time is your friend here, but that’s not always something you can control. That’s why default gifts for this sort of occasion tend to be quick purchases like wine, nice chocolate, or flowers. The situation also tends to call for throwing on a nice satin bow rather than fully wrapping the gift. This balances between the touch of wrapping the gift and awkwardly doing the “Should I open it now?” dance.

The best gifts for distant acquaintances tend to adhere to the following guidelines:

Give them something consumable.

You barely know these people, and they barely know you. Don’t stick them with a knick-knack they’ll want to cart off to Goodwill the second you walk out the door. Wine, nice chocolate, and flowers* are all items that you get, enjoy, and never have to think about again. In the event that they don’t partake in wine or chocolate (personally, I’m a no on wine and big yes on chocolate), both are usually easy to re-gift in the event that they aren’t thrilled with your pick.

*Cut flowers will require a vase, so keep in mind that it will require the host to stop and deal with your gift. Many etiquette guides advise against fresh cut flowers for this reason.

I like Theo’s chocolate bars as a beautifully wrapped, quality chocolate option. Get a set of three or four flavors and tie them up with a thin satin bow. I especially like the orange dark chocolate and mint dark chocolate.

Assorted bars of Theo chocolate
These Theo chocolate bars can be picked up locally in Seattle from the factory store in Fremont or ordered on Amazon.

Bring a conversation starter.

The kind of occasions which require you to give gifts to people you barely know tend to require you to talk to people you barely know. A gift with a nice backstory or something interesting gives you something to break the ice.

I have given orange olive oil in the past. Feel free to talk about how it features cold-pressed oranges rather than an orange infusion, or just mention that it’s amazing for dipping bread. This particular oil might not be the conversation starter for your event, but similar finds at your local farmer’s market can give you that ice-breaker. Put a bow around the neck, and you have a lovely gift and a conversation starter.

Sciabica Orange Flavored Olive Oil
For kitchen-oriented acquaintances, olive oil or homemade olive oil are great options. However, you don’t need to prep the olive oil months in advance.

Keep it generic enough.

Clearly an extended dossier on everyone you’re about to meet or see again would be incredibly helpful. That said, we’re rarely so lucky. If you can, ask about nut allergies or other dietary restrictions before gifting edible items. Otherwise, go for items that you could reasonably expect most people to like (creepy doll figurines not included). Soaps and lotion have long been traditional gifts, but people are often particular about those kinds of products these days. As long as you keep the scent mild, a nice candle can be consumable and generic. Moorea Seal offers a soy wax candle in a wintertime spruce scent.

Moorea Seal sells this Spruce Candle from P.F. Candle Co.
Stay away from bizarre scents and opt for a refreshing winter scent with this candle inspired by a walk in the woods.

 

Next time you’re stuck fumbling for a gift for someone you barely know, remember to keep it generic, consumable, and conversation starting!

Have any particularly great gifts that you keep on standby? Let me know in the comments.

Want more gift guide? Keep reading.

“It’s the thought and the thoughtfulness that counts.”

-Casey

 

 

More to Love from Madewell

Moorea Seal Morley wool hat, Forever 21 peacoat, Madewell Whisper cotton heather pewter grey tshirt, 8" Skinny Jeans in Lakeshore Wash, and Madewell chelsea black leather boots for fall or cool weather outfit inspiration.
This outfit features four items on my wardrobe wishlist: wool hat, grey short-sleeve t-shirt, dark jeans, and black leather chelsea boots.

Those of you who have been following along know that I’ve been intentionally focusing my wardrobe purchases on building a foundation of quality basics. If you haven’t heard about my intentional wardrobe wishlist, start here. Given my recent purchasing habits, it may come as no surprise that my two (technically three) newest additions to my wardrobe come from Madewell.

Moorea Seal Morley wool hat, Forever 21 peacoat, Madewell Whisper cotton heather pewter grey tshirt for fall or cool weather outfit inspiration.
I’ve been looking for a replacement for this pea coat, but I have been wearing this Whisper Cotton crew neck nonstop.

Whisper Cotton Crewneck Tee

This Madewell Whisper Cotton Crewneck Tee in heather pewter features a curved hem and an angled heathered texture. Both of these details add visual interest to a 100% cotton t-shirt.  I’m wearing an XXS, although a larger size could give a looser fit.

Whereas my Madewell Radio tee has a boxier, cropped fit, even the sleeves on this Whisper Tee are longer, hitting me about halfway down my upper arms. You can keep them long (bonus for those days when you don’t shave) or roll them slightly for that chic “I even make a tee shirt look good” result. Overall, this shirt scores pretty high, in that the biggest thing I would change would be raising the hem just slightly for my petite torso.

As you would expect, I also have my eye on this striped version, which I’ll probably swoop up next time it goes on sale.

Moorea Seal Morley wool hat, Forever 21 peacoat, Madewell Whisper cotton heather pewter grey tshirt, 8" Skinny Jeans in Lakeshore Wash, and Madewell chelsea black leather boots for fall or cool weather outfit inspiration.
I’m slowly breaking in these beautiful leather chelsea boots from Madewell.

The Chelsea Boot

These Madewell Chelsea Boots have been on my watchlist for a while. Unfortunately, they sold out quickly. However, after reading that they run slightly big, I rolled the dice on a pair in size 6M. The leather is beautiful and will have me looking more closely at Madewell shoes in the future. The #wellheeled contest is well named.

As far as fit is concerned, the 6 medium currently fits with my thinnest socks. I would probably say that it fits like a 6.25, assuming I’m a ‘true’ 6.5.  Therefore, I probably would have been better off wearing the sold-out 6h (6.5). The ankles are slim and require some wiggling to get my feet in. This works out because the interior lining is tan; I could see  slivers of tan when I glanced down wearing the boots with black tights.

The leather feels luxurious, as it should at that price point (I snagged mine on sale). My biggest complaint is that the front of the sole is too slick. As a result, I’ll probably want to have them resoled with a heavier, more textured sole because I put miles on my shoes.

Moorea Seal Morley wool hat, Forever 21 peacoat, Madewell Whisper cotton heather pewter grey tshirt, 8" Skinny Jeans in Lakeshore Wash, and Madewell chelsea black leather boots for fall or cool weather outfit inspiration.
Above, you can see the slight curve on the hem of the Madewell Whisper Cotton crew neck shirt.

Outfit

I paired these new additions with my Madewell 8″ Skinny Jeans in (the now discontinued) Lakeshore wash. To keep me warm, I finished the outfit with this pea coat from Forever 21 several years ago. Finally, my lips are colored red with Sephora’s Cream Lip Stain in 01 Always Red. This stuff is dangerously pigmented and dries to a matte finish.

 

All of the items in this outfit are easily adapted to other looks, and I’m pleased with their quality. Even better, I was able to use my birthday gift from Madewell’s new insider program to take more money off the sale price. Hopefully, Madewell will bring these high quality shoes back in stock.

“Take time to appreciate all that you have.” 

-Casey