13 Holiday 2018 Gift Ideas for Under $50, Mostly

Yes, some of these items are on my wish list, but some I already have. Most of these items are under $50. There are no affiliate links here and I have received no compensation for these suggestions.

  1. Alice in Wonderland Zipper Pouch $11.99 featuring John Tenniel illustrations. Measures 6x9. Look, I’m always in need of a zipper pouch for pens or makeup or charging cords and headphones. I’m a fan of a bag inside of my messenger bag or purse. It’s helpful to try to organize all the various things we have to carry around with us.

  2. One Line a Day Journal $11.00 This is a cool way to record the daily goings on each year. Daily entries include 5 spaces so for the next five years you can return to a given day and see what was happening at the time.

  3. Yeti Rambler, 20 oz. $29.99 I have this yeti in Navy and I love it. It is my most commonly used cup despite my many options for daily use. While most stainless steel cups work similarly, the quality of the Yeti is impressive. You can order monogramming (maybe not in time for Christmas) and designs directly from the Yeti site. It’s a great gift personalized or not. I like the 20 oz size but if you have someone who loves a smaller cup of coffee, liquor or wine, one of the smaller sizes would be perfect.

  4. Burberry Brit For Her $68.00 Perfume can be an excellent gift because we don’t often buy it for ourselves. I am a fan of Burberry scents. I wore them exclusively for years. This one is light and lovely and typically, not overpriced.

  5. Jesse’s Indigo Enamel Coated Mango Wood Salad Set $49.00 This is just a beautifully designed and made set. I love kitchen ware and gadgets and though this might not be something I would use everyday, I do eat a lot of salads. When guests are over, I enjoy a presentation a bit nicer than my plastic tupperware. Something about this set feels very adult in a way I can get on board with.

  6. Food Fortune Cards $11.99 Based on traditional tarot, this impressively illustrated set features different foods on each card. Readers can design a meal divined from the cards. The art is beautiful and would be an excellent addition to someone’s cooking or tarot collection.

  7. 20 Historical Paper Clips $15.00 Super quirky gift idea, these 20 paperclips were designed from historical patent records. There are 10 designs, 2 of each paperclip made of brass and silver. The designs and years are shown on the cover of an envelope which holds a clear bag of the paperclips.

  8. Gray Washed Cotton Smock $19.99 If there is a baker or cook in your life, they will appreciate this apron/smock. It’s one size fits all/most and has 2 pockets.

  9. Studio Oh! Justina Blakeney Find the Magic Metal Catch All Tray $10.00 This small catch-all tray (about the size of a coaster) is a lovely reminder and a practical tray for jewelry, keys, change, small objects from your pocket. There are larger sizes available in different sayings, as well that cost a bit more but it would be fun to mix and match the styles and sizes for a group of friends or co-workers.

  10. Lokai Sherpa Bracelet $38 I have been a fan of Lokai bracelets since a student told me about them in 2014. There are many styles and materials of bracelet. Each one features a white and black bead. The white bead is infused with water from Mt. Everest to remind you to stay humble when you’re “on top.” The black bead carries mud from the Dead Sea to remind you to stay hopeful when you’re at your “lowest point.” Many of their bracelets are tied to charity organizations. In fact most of the ones I own supported a charity including The Alzheimer’s Foundation and Make-a-Wish. This one is a new line where the beads are made from metal repurposed from oxygen tanks collected on Mt. Everest.

  11. Vahdam Chai Tea Set #29.99 This set includes Ginger Chai, Oolong Chai and Cinnamon Chai and was featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things List. I think tea sets are a great gift even if you aren’t sure someone is into tea. Tea is a thoughtful gift because sets like these aren’t ones I would buy for myself. I’ve often found tea I really like, flavors I would not have tried otherwise, in tea gifts.

  12. Bluegrass Bourbon Soy Sauce 100 ml $7.99 I love giving sauces, dry rubs, spices as gifts. There’s something fun and adventurous about the possibilities such a gift offers to the recipient. This is perfect for your hipster friends as it is a microbrewed soy sauce aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. It’s been featured on a lot of travel and food shows because it’s handcrafted in small batches in Kentucky.

  13. Kate Spade Take Note XL Journal/Notebook $28.00 With a built-in bookmark, this journal is a perfect notebook for meetings or personal journaling. I love Kate Spade notebooks. My sister-in-law gave me one for my birthday one year and I use it for everything from addresses for Christmas cards to reminders and recipes. I’m going to need a new one soon. Hint, hint. ;)

Devon Ralston
#celebratecultivate: begin

For the past few years I have participated in a reflective practice during the month of December as a way to honor the year that is ending and create intention(s) for the year ahead. In 2009, I participated in Gwen Bell’s #bestof2009, which evolved into #reverb10. In 2011, many bloggers contributed to their own reverb projects, providing prompts and community for  #reverb11 and repeated in #reverb12. In 2011 and 2012 I jumped around various reverb communities and chose prompts which provided the best opportunity for me to reflect and share. In 2013 I joined Project Reverb hosted by Kat, Sarah, and Meredith,. In 2014, I continued with Project Reverb, which also provided monthly prompts throughout 2015 once #reverb14 ended. In 2015, I responded to a few prompts from Project Reverb as well as Kat McNally's prompts. I have not blogged consistently since then for many reasons, but I’ve deeply missed the practice of writing in this space.

This time of year allows me to slow down a little and spend some major time writing and thinking and connecting. So, I’m participating in #celebratecultivate with one of the #reverb10 founders, Kaileen Elise. If you’d like to join in, check out the instagram and subscribe to the prompts sent out each week, or make up your own.

How did 2018 begin for you? How do you want to feel when 2019 begins?  

I began 2018 with a refocus on my health and on my physical strength/well-being. I believe in the mind/body/soul connection and I knew 2017 had been rough on all of those aspects of my selfhood. None of my jeans fit. I found it difficult to breathe when I walked up stairs. I’d become unaware of the food I ate, eating mindlessly, when I was bored, finding comfort in food. My grandmother, the woman who helped raise me, who supported me through two degrees, friendships ending, two breakups, and many other joys and disappointments of my young adulthood, died in 2017 and the grief I experienced as a result left me feeling unanchored and lost. I feel like 2017 was a year in which I simply survived rather than lived; though there were moments of beauty and connection, my attention was scattered. So, in 2018 I wanted to change that. I wanted to take charge of myself again. I needed to repurpose my path and be present and conscious and mindful. I had no idea what that was going to look like, but I knew I wanted to actively work on self-growth. I chose the word “pursuit” to frame these intentions and I started going to Burn Boot Camp where my wife was a member as part of their New Year’s promotion called “Raise the Bar”. This simple decision not only changed my year, but it has changed my outlook, provided a space where I’ve met amazing people and continued to challenge my body and mind in terms of what I thought possible. I feel my awareness not just of my body but my capabilities as a whole, opening in unexpected ways, and I feel as though I’ve found my way back to myself, but a better version with much more confidence.

I want to move into 2019 with an appreciation for my life, for my loved ones, my colleagues, those around me. I want to do a better job at letting those I love know how deeply I care for them and what they mean to me. I can get incredibly inside myself and kind of assume people I spend my time with understand their importance to me, that I value their friendship and affection. Though I am significantly expressive in my marriage, I am less so in my friendships. But I am not someone who wastes time with relationships. If I enjoy someone’s company, we hang out, text, chat. This seems obvious to my Aquarian mind. If I spend time with you, you mean something to me. If I have your phone number, and you have mine I consider you in my circle of those I care about more than a little :). But in 2019, I seek to be more mindful of my connections, more purposeful with them, and ultimately, more grateful.

I haven’t selected a word for 2019 yet, but I have a few ideas. I like to sit with them for a while to see what continues to present itself, what just feels right. I need time to process. I’m hoping these reflective period is just the thing I need to lay some groundwork for the year ahead while recognizing how rich and full my life is.

Summer Playlist 2018

While I'm over here half pretending the Fall Semester isn't just around the corner and half trying to get as much work done as possible, you're probably doing something similar, soaking in the last of Summer before things get hectic again. I did a ton of work this Summer (taught an online course, completed an article and started on another one, worked on writing procedures and training for online tutoring which we're in the process of implementing, served on a search committee whose work is ongoing, presented at two conferences, represented our Chapter at Phi Kappa Phi Convention) and inside of all that I tried to take some time to enjoy my "time off". It's a really tough balancing act. And if anyone has tips on how to create boundaries for your time, I'd love to know what you do. I do get concerned over the amount of things I take on and how I manage my mental/emotional health. Music has been a mainstay of self-care, though I wasn't always conscious of it as such.

Music has always been a huge part of my life, of my downtime (if that exists). My father has wide-ranging music tastes and I learned early in life the power of music, particularly for personalities like my own. There was frequently music in my house, much moreso than television. I used to carry my record player everywhere I was allowed. I've recounted the story of receiving my first "boom box" which my father found at a yard sale and the summers spent making mix tapes that my brother and I would skate to on our back patio. 
I think of periods of my life in place and music: where did I live? what was my soundtrack? 

I've been making playlists on Spotify since 2011. I've been making Summer playlists since 2014. I've tried to articulate what a Summer playlist involves and it isn't always just "what I'm listening to now" instead I've cultivated this music to evoke Summer both now and in the future when I'm longing for less structure and more time. If you're interested, you can follow me on Spotify and see past playlists. This summer I've traveled, worked, written, tried new recipes, and spent time at the pool. I think this playlist (in some ways) reflects all of those activities, though admittedly it's more mellow than past lists. 

If you haven't heard the King Princess song "1950" you should listen now! Mikaela Strauss, is a 20-year-old singer/songwriter whose album Make My Bed is out now. "1950" probably has the most radio play on XM but "Talia" is incredibly good, as well. 

Denis Lloyd's "Nevermind" has been on rotation since June and I each time I hear it, I find something new to like. He's an Israeli singer who remixes many of his own songs. I think "Nevermind" has been around a while, but the most recent vision hit airwaves this Summer and was named by Time as a "song of the summer". 

Khalid (not to be confused with DJ Khaled) makes this year's playlist twice! I talked up his album American Teen last year and continue to be impressed with his sound. His song with DJ Martin Garrix, "Ocean" is beautiful and romantic, and a little cliche but it's forgivable because Khalid's voice is so good. Besides, in my Summer music you're going to stumble onto some cliches; that's just how it goes. The other Khalid collaboration here is with Normani. "Love Lies" is all over the radio right now. It's the counter to the romantic ballad of "Ocean". 

The most intriguing song on this playlist is probably "Holding On" by Nashville-based band Nightly. It kept coming up on random Spotify playlists and each time I would stop and see what song it was. I hope they have a new album soon; I'd like to hear more of their sound. 

Donna Missel's "Thrills" is incredible. Her voice is so powerful and the song itself is empowering, sexy,  and once you hear it, you want to hear it again. 

There's definitely a smoother, slower pace to some of this year's tunes but if you're wanting a roll your windows down song look no further than "Burn the House Down" by AJR, which if it isn't getting radio play yet, it will soon. There's also The Knocks' "Ride or DIe" which features vocals from Foster the People's Mark Foster. It also has one of my favorite lines of all summer songs, "Who needs a license when you got no drive?" Clever. 


Devon Ralston
This smoothie recipe is not as weird as it sounds

I am very into smoothies. I think it's because it's so hot and they are refreshing and a way for me to get more protein in my day, plus with the Ninja single serve it's incredibly easy to make with not a ton of cleanup involved. Tasty, easy, cool: that's my kind of drink. 

I discovered this recipe in July of 2014. We were spending the summer housesitting and I was cooking a lot, trying new recipes and figuring out how to actually enjoy the summer, which sounds wild; I know but for so much of my life summers have been about work in some form or another. I talk about this more in a post from #reverb15 . The point is that I was feeling adventurous and had recently gotten the Nutribullet when I saw Sarah's post about a Spinach, Pineapple and Peanut Butter smoothie. It may say something about me that when I first read that I thought, "ooh, sounds intriguing" rather than "that sounds weird," but I'd also tried to make black bean cookies that summer, so this was definitely going to be better than that! 

And it was! 

I altered her original recipe a bit. I use peanut butter rather than almond butter and I don't include chia, but you could do whatever you want with it. I don't really measure the ingredients any more and yesterday when I made this it was a bit more pineapple-y than before but still just as good. 

One thing about smoothies, is that depending on how you're blending it, it may matter the order you throw things in. With a blender, I don't think it makes as much of a difference, but with the Ninja or Nutribullet, you're kind of stacking ingredients so you have to decide what works best for you and your blender/smoothie maker.

If you love smoothies and you're up for an adventure, here's what you need: 

  • 1 cup almond milk (I use unsweetened almond milk and I like to add it last.)
  • 1 handful of spinach leaves (I'm pretty generous with this to give it the nice green color; you don't really taste the spinach)
  • 3/4 cup  pineapple (I use fresh pineapple but you could use frozen. You can also do a little less or a little more, depending on your tastes). 
  • 1-2 tbsps of peanut butter. ( I use Smart Balance Peanut Butter because it's lower in sugar; you could sub almond or sun butter). 

Pulse until well blended and enjoy!