Not Your Typical Gift Guide

Last year we had the most stress-free Christmas when it came to gifts.  We gave the same thing to all the adults and the same thing to all of our nieces and nephews (depending on their age).  I was able to do this because I found something so great it would be coveted by all.  For example, we got all the adults a YETI rambler, I wanted everyone to experience the luxury of hot coffee for hours!  It was so easy because there was just 1 order for 15 cups and all the gift bags were the same size, less variables = less stress and more sleep. Ha!  My motivation though wasn't just about ease, it was also about smart spending and my new anti-clutter mindset.  So of course I wanted to do the same concept this year. Below are ideas I'm working on/trying to decide between... If you are in my family, stop reading after the kid ideas!

I made an investment in the starter set of Magna-Tiles a couple years ago and I'm so glad I did because they are used the most out of all our toys.  So when I saw this clear ICE set I knew my daughter would love to get creative with it.  My daughter is 8, she still plays with Magna-Tiles and is even asking for more ICE tiles this Christmas.  I think I'm getting this set of ICE tiles for all the young girls in our family.

For the boy's I want to get this newly found set of Magna-Tiles BLACK!  Think Star Wars and Batman's Batcave... they'll be able to imagine and create these tiles to be anything they want!

My runner up idea for the girls in our family is this set of The Princess in Black books. We recently picked up the first book in the series at a book fair and my daughter couldn't put it down.  She read it outside while her friends on the block were playing.  THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN EVER!  The recommended age for the books are 5-8. My daughter's teacher would probably say she needs to be reading on a more challenging level but I'm just happy she's enjoying it and begging for the second book.  The third book in the series comes out in February so if you're giving the set, your lucky girl will get a surprise in the future!

My runner up for the younger boys in our family is this Star Wars Epic Yarns book set by the brothers Jack and Holman Wang.  These books blow me away.  Each book has about 12 Star Wars scenes with artistically created figures made of felt.  Each scene is paired with a single sight word to tell the story.  I'd say these are great for age 3-5 or an early reader who is obsessed with all things Star Wars (that's my son). If you're into this, check out the behind the scenes video here: Wang.

For the women (or men) in my family, I'm thinking the S'well Bottle is perfect.  It looks like just another water bottle, oh but it's not! My neighbor told me about this one! ;)  It will keep your water cold for 24 hours!  I am LOVING mine!  It will also keep hot liquid hot.  So basically its a YETI that can't spill, you can throw it in your bag.  Perfect for water on your night stand, working out or in your car running errands.  They say the healthiest way to store water is in a stainless or glass container, you got it! The S'well Bottle comes in a variety of styles. These are my top 8, including a couple Mara Hoffman styles.

The other gift I am thinking about getting the ladies is a waist apron from Heirloomed Collection. So many pretty styles! And if you're on Instagram you've got to check out their beautiful posts. Also, they are having a 12 Days of Christmas promotion so I've been checking everyday for their aprons to go on sale!
For the guys in our family, we're getting them into the Dollar Shave Club.  This also comes recommended by a neighbor, seriously, TITYN!  He likes knowing every 4 weeks, 4 new razors will be in his mailbox.  And he likes their Shave Butter as well!  When you're gifting the DSC there's a choice of 3 months, 6 months or a year.

This is a gift idea for someone helping a kid buy a gift for a grown-up. I hope that's not too confusing.   We have this book, The Book With No Pictures, and my kids like to ask every grow-up who visits to read it to them.  If your family and friends are not offended by hearing or being forced to say "Boo Boo Butt" than this book is fun!

This is a gift for a Texan, a teacher, your neighbor, your friend.  I love this Texas Print Mug by Newton Supply Co.!  Black on black, gloss on matte and a big handle, what's not to love?!

Last but not least, I'm considering Memberships as gifts in lieu of all of the above.  Talk about clutter free!  I have found with our family Memberships to the Zoo, Art museum and science museum, we know more about the happenings and therefore we go.  There's incentive to see exhibits before they are open to the public. Because I'm getting emails and regular mail from them, the museums are not out of sight and out of mind, they are on the brain and we go!  I know that would happen for my family and friends as well.  Here are links to the Houston memberships:

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston - Gift Membership comes with a glass!
Houston Zoo - Choose a membership level and you'll be prompted to select if it's a gift.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science - They're having a promotion for current members!

A photo posted by Rachel Cruze (@rachelcruze) on

I hope this post has helped you if you're stumped.  And before you go, I'd like to make a PSA - Don't let anyone or anything make you feel like you have to spend money you don't have. :) "Showing you care doesn't always mean spending money." - Rachel Cruze

PS - These are more ideas I didn't have time to write about:
Beth Macri - Hidden Message Jewelry
Tickets to JJ Watt's Charity Classic - Defense is in the 3rd base dugout
Lego Architecture Studio - To recreate The Connectivity project from the art museum at home.


The Fall of Unfinished Business

Today is the first day of Fall and I am declaring this season "The Fall of Unfinished Business".  I'm pretty good at coming up with ideas and taking steps to start on these ideas, for example, buying supplies or sharing my plans with you.  I'm also pretty good at getting overwhelmed, procrastinating and thinking, "this, this and this needs to be done before I can do that".  And when I'm trying my best to live "one day at a time" I often choose to do the thing that rewards in the moment over doing the thing that rewards in the long term.  A lot on my to-do list is for my home, a passion of mine, but it's hard to work on/spend money on a house when we don't know the future of it, adding on, building, moving...  Weeks of pondering ideas turn into months that turn into years of not doing what I love.  All of this might sound like excuses but it's real and I want to get past it, now that I am able. ;)

For the first time in a long time I have some time to get these things done, tell it to your neighbor!  Both of my kids are now in elementary school and it's less of a struggle to gain momentum and tackle projects and major responsibilities.  But I know from the success of #31Days2GetOrganized I need to set up some accountability, camaraderie and support.  Would you like to join me in #TheFallOfUnfinishedBusiness? I'm going to post my "frog eating" and project completing on this blog, Facebook and Instagram.  I'd love for you to join me if you're in the same boat, together is better!  Hopefully I'll be finding sources, like someone to make me a pillow, and sharing those too!

My list is long, it's in no particular order and I know I'm forgetting some things.

#TheFallOfUnfinishedBusiness To-Do List

1. Beaver Creek vacation blog post (better late than never to write about my favorite vacation so far).

2. Kids art storage blog post.

3. Lego party post.
4. Frame and hang Donald Robertson print.
5. 12 continuing education hours by the end of October.
6. Frame and hang Paris Texas print.
7. Hang peacock mirror.

8. Have pillow for bed made.
9. Have slipcover for daybed made.
10. Garage sale or giveaway accumulating stuff in carport and shed.
11. Finish reading The One and Only.
12. Finish reading The Gifts of Imperfection.

13. Refurbish vintage beach chair (had for a year and a half, from round top).
14. Halloween ornament idea (purchased supplies a year ago).
15. Collage idea: Christmas Aftermath (saved scraps from last Christmas).

16. 3 More Dala Horses (purchased supplies a year and a half ago)
17. Returns to store.
18. Returns to be shipped (shipping and mailing are a huge weakness of mine).
19. Put photos in empty frames.
20. Hang Joseph's Annex sign.

21. Hang Ford sign.
22. Hang Lilly and Beau's black and white preschool photos.
23. Hang antlers.
24. Wooden initial project with family.
25. Legal stuff.
26. Business stuff.
27. Car stickers (includes windshield repair).
28. Backyard and window box.
29. Organize Legos.
30. Respond to long overdue emails/ messages on Facebook.
31. Plan a 20 year reunion.
32. Clean and return borrowed Mickey Mouse costume (this has been in and out of my car for 3 years).

I'd like to finish a big part of this long to-do list this fall, I don't think I'll be able to do it all but as much as I can!  I want to do this before I commit to anything new, before I act on another idea, before I buy anything more and before I start to pursue some big dreams I have for this blog and for myself.  These things are taking up space in my head, in my hallway, in my closet and I'm ready to get it done!!! Please join me and use the hashtag #TheFallOfUnfinishedBusiness when you post.  Also, make sure your posts are public on Facebook or make sure you're Instagram profile is temporarily public if you want to share your posts with others.  You can always direct message me too! Let's do this!!!


These Are My Keepers

For me, the Nordstrom Anniversary sale involves a lot of ordering and returning.  Well I am finished with that whole process and I'm happy with my keepers.  I'm so happy that I need to tell my neighbor about them before time is up!  The sale ends tomorrow, prices go up Monday, Aug.3rd!

First up, I had to get gear for Round Top.  Last spring one of my rain boots got a hole in the bottom and my foot was sloshing around in mud all day.  When I saw these black Hunter boots had a navy stripe down the back I knew they would look awesome with denim.  And who wants to keep track of an umbrella at Round Top? So I finally invested in my first rain coat since I was 5 years old, ha!  I love how this trench allows me to have a shape, this is a size XS.  This will be great for rainy day drop-off and pick-up at the elementary school as well.  Here are a few clickable thumbnail links to my gear:

And now that I'm taking care of myself and working out on a regular basis, I need more activewear.  My favorite leggings are Zella and they are always included in the Anniversary Sale.  Thank you, Nordstrom!  Here are my keepers in clickable thumbnail links:

Normally I wear a small in these but I had to go down a size in the zig-zag leggings.

My everyday CZ studs were looking sad and tarnished.  So I did a style upgrade with these!  They make me feel "edgy".  And the sales associate said they were one of the first styles to sell out in the store, this gives me confidence to do the "edgy".

Now these were a huge purchase.  I've always loved this style boot and I've been wanting to replace my worn out black knee high boots with something more sophisticated.  These were the keepers and FYI: I had to go down a size in these boots.

Last winter I didn't have any easy sweaters I could throw on with leggings or jeans, dress up or dress down.  I like the style and the price of these.  I have wide shoulders so most of the time a shoulder seam doesn't hit in the right place and shirts are too tight. These sweaters have raglan and dropped shoulder style sleeves, perfect for my wide shoulders!

Last but not least, my favorite thong, it's on sale!  What's special about these? There are no lines when I wear a form fitting dress or pant.

I now consider all of these selections "tried and true" because I'm not on the fence about any of them.  I've hemmed and hawed, I've been to the store to try on multiple sizes, I've finished my returns and these are my keepers! Now good luck to you in the final hours of this amazing sale!


Shopping Experiment Take Two!

A typical department store sale is a lower price on a leftover item from a previous season.  A Nordstrom Anniversary sale is positively different!  It's a ton of new styles for the upcoming season (even some tried and true favorites) offered at much lower prices for a temporary period of time, then the price goes up!  I like to use the sale to save on back-to-school shopping for my kids.  Last year I had so much fun with my  "Shopping Experiment" post that I thought I'd do it again!

We had fun again to say the least!  Here's the "experiment": When I shop for my kids I do my best to keep their likes and dislikes in mind.  But what if my kids went shopping without me and what if they didn't have to think about versatility, price, size/growth?  And what would that kind of personal expression look like for them?!  Could I just go with it?  So I had them pick out a "First Day of School Outfit" from the Anniversary Sale without any help or opinions from me.  I also selected an outfit for them I thought they'd like with the usual mom things in mind (durability/versatility).  I hope it gives you some back-to-school shopping ideas if you're shopping for kiddos.

Thumbnail links to items:

These are my picks for Beau.  I thought I did pretty good with the Spiderman Tshirt considering graphic tees are not my favorite, ha!  And I included a hoodie because according to my daughter, "He needs a sweater for kindergarten because the classrooms are freezing!"

Thumbnail links to items:

These are Beau's picks for himself to wear on the first day of school.  I love it, so fun to see his style at just 5.  I don't know if I can go with the minions hoodie, ha! But the Star Wars Tshirt is a win win so I ordered it up a size to fit him better.

Thumbnail links to items:

These are my picks for Lilly and she liked all of it!  Success! This denim moto jacket is adorable!

Thumbnail links to items:

These are Lilly's picks for herself and I am blown away!  She had so much fun and I love her style!  I never would have picked up this dress but I think it looks so cute!  And with the leopard, I wish I could mix and match patterns like this!

Thumbnail links to items:

Of course my Daughter wanted to put together more than one outfit and I was amazed again!  She has a talent, I love it all!  This was the sweater she wanted to get for the classroom, she's very excited about it.

Thumbnail link:

I had to take a close-up of the jeggings she selected.  They sparkle and they're not itchy at all, super soft!

I hope this experiment was as fun for you as it was for me.  I learned I can open my mind, give them more freedom, let go of my style on them and let their personality shine through!

The Nordstrom Anniversary sale starts TODAY and prices go up Monday, Aug 3rd.  So we have a little over two weeks to take advantage of the savings, good luck!