2013 Christmas Gifts That Give Back

4 Dec

gift-giving

It’s that time of year again… Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas shopping is in full swing for many as they try to wrap up their holiday shopping. I definitely fall into that category and find myself thinking about my gift list too many times throughout the day while I should be working. If you’re like me, you want to find something special for each person on your list – something that you know they’ll love and appreciate. Over the past few years, I feel like I’ve realized the value of charity more, and of supporting a cause that you feel strongly towards. So this year I’m going to try to incorporate that as much as I can into my Christmas gift giving. And I’d like to encourage you to do the same!

So, how do you give a charitable gift? There’s always the traditional way of making a donation in someone’s name, which is an excellent way to directly support a cause. However, I like to have something wrapped up that my friends and family can open – the best part of gift giving for me is watching their delight while they open it!  I sought out items online that, when purchased, give back to a charitable organization but that are also sparkly enough to light up someone’s face when they receive them. Here are my suggestions for 2013 Christmas gifts that give back.

Sevenly

Sevenly.org has become one of my absolute favorite websites this year and I can’t say enough good things about this company. They are an organization that chooses a different charity each week, sells merchandise to support that cause for seven days, and donate $7 from each purchase to the charity. From child sex trafficking awareness, to ending teen suicide to supporting adoption in children with down syndrome, they support so many worthy causes, and help bring awareness to the growing needs of our world. Sevenly has some pretty awesome inventory, like the most amazing graphic tees, some fab prints, notebooks, jewelry, accessories and baby goods. You should be able to find something for anyone on your list from Sevenly – a cool tee for the guys, some beautiful jewelry or a print for the girls, and a onsie, tee or stuffed animal for the kids! Their current charity is  Operation Christmas Child, and remember to check back every week to see what they’re selling and who they’re supporting next!

(Bonus Facts: Your Sevenly package will arrive in the coolest designed packaging imaginable – they have some serious graphic designers over there. And each purchase comes with a nifty Sevenly sticker, asking the recipient to snap a picture of them in the product and tag themselves on one of Sevenly’s social media sites. How fun!)

Sevenly-tees

Sevenly cause tees

Sevenly-Prints-and-Jewelry

Sevenly charitable gifts including jewelry, bags, and prints.

Sevenly-charitable-gifts

Sevenly home decor, note pads, note cards.

Toms

Ok, let’s be honest – everyone loves a good pair of Toms! This is a real easy gift idea. Toms makes groovy shoes for women, men and children, and the best part is their motto: One For One. For every pair of Toms purchased, they donate a pair of shoes to a person in need. So you can walk around in comfort knowing that somewhere in the world there is another pair of shoes on someone’s feet who appreciates it more than you can imagine – all because of you. I recently received the leopard print pair as a gift (best gift ever!) and am currently crushing on the serpentine pattern.

But Toms is no longer just offering shoes; they’ve now added eyewear to their wheelhouse. And with every pair of Toms glasses purchased, you give sight to one person by way of prescription glasses, sight-saving surgeries, and medical treatments. There is also a Marketplace page, where you have access to tons of charitable gifts from organizations benefiting various causes. Jewelry, apparel, ear buds, this page has it all!

Toms-mens-shoes

Toms Men’s Classics

Toms-eyewear

Toms Women’s Eyewear

Toms-Marketplace

Toms Marketplace

West Elm

I was recently looking for a birthday gift for one of my dearest friends, and this particular girl (along with her wonderful hubby!) is very involved in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital charity work. So, when I stumbled across the glass bird paperweight on West Elm’s site which benefits St. Jude, it was like serendipity! While on their site I found some other really nice charitable gifts. They have mugs with the designs on them that benefit various charities including ASPCA®Architecture For HumanityOceanaTeach For AmericaDoctors Without Borders, and It Gets Better. Seriously, something for everyone!

west-elm-st.-jude-gifts

West Elm charitable gifts benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

west-elm-charity-mugs

West Elm charity mugs benefiting multiple organizations

Some other great sites to check for charitable Christmas gift ideas are Project7, Sephora, Grounds For Change, and Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Do you have any suggestions for charitable gifts? Happy Holidays!

#MusicMonday – Ed Sheeran

18 Nov

Just when you think Ed Sheeran couldn’t get any cooler, he goes and releases a new song for the upcoming Hobbit sequel The Desolation of Smaug. I mean, really Ed? Really?

plus

A few months ago I discovered Ed Sheeran, and my music collection will never be the same because of it. If you’re not familiar with Ed, here’s the rundown: he’s a 22-year-old British, award-winning artist, bestie to Taylor Swift, soulful singer and amazing songwriter. He’s extremely talented, performing his songs with just himself and a loop pedal (which allows him to act as drums, bass, and background vocals) and has gained superstardom not only in the UK, but also in the States. His album, +, was released in 2011, and soon after Taylor Swift asked him to write and perform a song with her for her album Red. So they penned and recorded “Everything Has Changed” (love it!) and Taylor loved Ed so much that she asked him to come open her US Red tour with her, which of course he did. (Does anyone really say “no” to Taylor Swift?) His song “The A Team” was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2013 Grammy’s, where he performed with Sir Elton John. Ed recently sold out three shows at Madison Square Garden (sold out! wow) where he surprised concert-goers each night with a special guest opening act, and even brought Taylor out on stage at one point to sing with him!

taylor_swift_ed_sheeran

+  has become one of my all time favorite albums; some of the highlights you definitely need to check out are “Give Me Love“, “Lego House” (Harry Potter fans will love this one), “Drunk“, and “Small Bump“. The record has absolutely been played dozens of times in my house and I love watching videos of Ed performing. To get the full effect of the loop pedal and what all this kid can do, watch The Live Room performance of “Give Me Love” here. Ed Sheeran has gone on me and my husband’s list of live shows to see at some point in our lives.

So, we were thrilled when he announced on Twitter a few weeks ago that he was asked by Peter Jackson himself (whoa!) to write and perform the song for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. “I See Fire” is sooo good, I got goose bumps the first time I heard it. Ed captures the story of a dragon wreaking havoc on Middle Earth in this song so well, and I look forward to hearing it as the credits role at the end of the movie. Which my husband and I will be going to see on opening day. Because we’re nerds.

Here is the video for the song, which Ed performs all instruments and vocals on, except for the cello. (I guess there really are some things this guy can’t do.) Break out your hoodies and your cuppa tea and crank this one up, y’all.

Scream Queens – The Best of the Best

30 Oct

Scream Queens

Halloween is tomorrow and my annual Halloween horror movie marathon is in full swing. Fact: I am a fan of the horror genre.   I blame it on my Mother – she always made Halloween so fun and magical when I was little. From costumes and trick-or-treating, to staying up late each year, vegging out on the living room floor, eating candy while watching Michael Myers. I grew up thinking horror movies were fun.

One of my earliest memories is watching The House of Long Shadows starring the fantastic Vincent Price. Granted, this is probably one of my earliest memories because it scared the ever living crap out of me and scarred me for life. Nevertheless, I love me some scary movies. Particularly the cheesy nineteen-eighties films like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and my absolute favorite, Halloween. Since it’s that time of year again, I’d like to dedicate this blog post to all the classic Scream Queens of the silver screen.

Neve Campbell – Scream series

Neve Campbell Scream

Scream was released in 1996, a time when good horror movies were few and far between. When it was released, Scream took the world by surprise, reinventing the slasher film genre by none other than Wes Craven – the man who helped build it more than a decade earlier. Neve Campbell portrayed Sidney Prescott, a high school student who is targeted by a crazed, knife-weilding murderer known as Ghostface. Sid and her friends battle the murderer(s) while learning the “rules” of horror movies, which include (according to Randy): “1. You can never have sex. The minute you get a little nookie–you’re as good as gone. Sex always equals death. 2. Never drink or do drugs. The sin factor. It’s an extension of number one. And 3. Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, say ‘I’ll be right back.’”

Scream movie poster

I will never forget seeing this movie in the theater when it came out and it is still one of my all-time favorite movies. Fans will always remember that creepy voice asking “What’s your favorite scary movie?” at the opening of the film. And Sidney is my top choice for Scream Queen in terms of what a good horror heroine should entail – she was a good girl who was determined to stay alive at any cost. Campbell went on to star in all four additional Scream movies, all of which were note-worthy horror films – something that rarely happens in the world of sequels.

Heather Langenkamp – A Nightmare on Elm Street series

Heather Langenkamp

In 1984 we were introduced to one of the most recognizable monsters of all time, known for his striped sweater, stylish hat, burned face and of course, the infamous knife hands – Freddy Krueger. The lead in A Nightmare on Elm Street was a character called Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp. Nancy was a high school student (starting to notice a trend here with horror movie leads…) who, along with her friends, begins experiencing horrific dreams that are all too real, starring none other than Freddy himself. As her friends are killed off one by one in the most gruesome of ways, it’s up to Nancy to stay awake and figure out how to take down Freddy. Langenkamp went on to star as Nancy in 2 sequels –  A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Sadly though, her reign as a Scream Queen came to an end in Dream Warriors when Freddy finally caught up to her. But then she comes back in New Nightmare. Go figure. RIP, Nancy.

Nightmare On Elm Street

Linda Blair – The Exorcist series

Linda Blair

What do I say about this next Queen? She starred in one of the most scary movies of all time – The Exorcist. Linda Blair portrayed 12 year old Regan, a little girl who is possessed by a very, very evil demon while her mother is forced to helplessly watch. Regan endures some pretty sick torture by the demon possessing her, things involving crucifixes and pea soup that I don’t wish to repeat. And then there’s the head-spinning horror of the actual exorcism performed by the priests.

 

 

The Exorcist movie poster

Linda Blair starred in the sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic, which follows Regan years later, where she finds that some of the evil that once possessed her still lives inside her. All I can say is, if you don’t want to be thoroughly creeped out and not be able to sleep at night, absolutely do not watch these movies.

Jamie Lee Curtis – Halloween series

Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween

And finally, we come to my all-time favorite Scream Queen – Jamie Lee Curtis herself. Halloween was released in 1978 and starred Curtis, in her first movie role, as Laurie Strode, an awkward teenage girl who got stuck babysitting some neighbor kids on Halloween. Poor Laurie had no idea that her psychotic, long-lost brother, Michael Myers, would decide to come get his kicks by killing all of her friends and coming for her in the end. But Laurie kept her wits about her and was determined to live and keep those kids safe! She fought back (with a coat hanger to the eye) and made it to the sequel! Halloween II picked up right where Halloween ended – following Laurie to the hospital after her traumatic fight for survival. But once at the hospital, Michael rises from the dead in the  morgue and goes on another killing spree.

Halloween

 

Jamie Lee survived the hospital too, and went on to appear in two other Halloween films – Halloween H2O, which also starred Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams, where she played Laurie as a mother and head mistress of a boarding school. Of course Michael comes for her there and she now has to protect her son and some kids at the school. (This one was also one of my faves!) And sadly, Jamie Lee’s reign as Screen Queen came to an end in Halloween: Resurrection in 2002, where Michael finally catches her in a mental hospital – where she has stowed herself so he couldn’t get to her. I gotta say, I was pretty upset when they killed her off. But Halloween isn’t the only horror movie Jamie Lee is known for. She also starred in such films as Prom Night, Terror Train and The Fog. I think she will always be the ultimate Scream Queen.

So, what’s your favorite scary movie? 

Happy Halloween!

Casting Christian Grey

15 Oct

The news broke this weekend that Charlie Hunnam will no longer be playing Christian Grey in next year’s highly anticipated big-screen adaptation of the Fifty Shades of Grey novel by E. L. James. I have to say, I was a little thrilled by this information. I read all three books in the Fifty Shades trilogy earlier this year after putting it off for a long time, thinking it was going to be some silly erotica/romance novel that was beneath me. Boy, was I wrong. It sucked me in and I unwillingly joined the ranks of millions of  totally obsessed fans of the series.

CharlieHunnam

When I heard that Charlie Hunnam had been cast to play the infamous Christian Grey, I was pretty disappointed. The anticipation of finding out who would be cast had built up so much and when they announced it, it was a pretty big let down for me. I never pictured anything like Hunnam as Grey when I was reading the books, and I know that when novels are adapted into movies they almost never cast someone you imagined…but still.

So, needless to say I am excited that there is still hope for Christian Grey, and of course I have a few suggestions of my own. Here are four fine fellas that I would not be upset about being cast as Christian in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.

Possible Christian Greys

1. Henry Cavill – You know the British actor as Superman from last summer’s blockbuster Man of Steel and also from the Showtime series The Tudors. I’m not going to lie, I first pictured Christian Grey as very similar looking to Henry Cavill while reading the books. He’s definitely got the body and the looks, doesn’t he? Cavill has been a fan favorite to play Grey since it was announced that it would be made in to a movie. But with intensive filming beginning very soon on Man of Steel 2, I’m skeptical that he’ll take the role as Grey.

2. Jamie  Dornan – Dornan gained popularity as Sheriff Graham / The Huntsman on Once Upon A Time, and in a much darker role as creepy killer Paul Spector on the European series, The Fall. This Irish actor certainly has shown us he can portray a dark and dangerous dude (perfect for Christian!) while looking drop dead gorgeous at the same time. I remember while watching The Fall thinking to myself, “this guy could totally be Christian Grey”. And rumor has it he is currently in talks with the movie execs for taking over Mr. Hunnam’s spot.

3. Alex Pettyfer - Best known as Adam from Magic Mike, Pettyfer is another British actor I’d like to see as Christian Grey. He’s come a long way since I Am Number Four, and I think it’s time he stepped in to a bigger acting role. I could totally see him giving a crooked smile and saying “Laters, baby”, couldn’t you??

4. Robert Pattinson – Ok, there. I said it. Yes, I’d like to see RPatz as Christian Grey. I mean come on! He’s gone to some dark, tortured places onscreen before as the oppressed and lovesick vampire in Twilight,  and I’ve seen him do some more serious acting since then. He could totally pull it off! I think it would shock a lot of people to see him in such a grown-up role for a change, and probably come as a pleasant surprise. And word on the street is E. L. James wanted Pattinson originally for the film adaptation of her novel. Surely she’s got some pull!

Now I want to hear your opinion. Have you read the books? Are you interested in seeing the movie? Weigh in and let me know who you would like to see as Christian Grey in the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.

#MusicMonday – Tegan and Sara “Closer”

14 Oct

tegan_and_sara

Oh, Tegan and Sara. You two rock my world. These Canadian identical twins are not only cute, but extremely talented. They sing, play instruments and write their own music. They have released seven studio albums, and tour constantly. If you ever have an opportunity to see them live, take it! I first saw them in 2010 in New Orleans when they opened for Paramore during the Honda Civic Tour. I had heard their songs “Walking With A Ghost” and “Back In Your Head” before, but after seeing them live I was sold. They were amazing, and I’ve loved them ever since.

Their new single, “Closer”,  is off their current album Heartthrob and it is so much fun. If you haven’t heard it yet, watch the video below. I dare you not to get sucked in to its happy, catchy beat. The first time I heard it, it reminded me of an 80′s song – so of course I loved it.

If you liked what you saw, check out some of their other stuff here, here and here.

Copycat Fashion: Celebrity Couples Halloween Costumes

13 Oct

Halloween is less than three weeks away, and that means it’s time to decide on a costume! Many of you will be celebrating All Hallow’s Eve at parties with your friends, getting dressed up for each other in your most ghoulish attire. I love looking at costume ideas online, and always see some pretty fantastic ones from celebrities. They get to go to elaborate Halloween bashes and seem to always pick the most outrageous and creative costumes. This year I thought, “why not take some inspiration from the stars?” so I’m bringing you my favorites from some pretty cool celebrity couples (past and present).

First up – Christina Aguilera and ex-hubby Jordan Bratman got ghoulish in 2006 as a corpse bride and groom.

christina_aguilera_halloween

This is one of my favorite couples costumes, especially for an engaged couple or newlyweds. And it’s surprisingly easy to pull off. I don’t know about you, but every time I go thrifting at a local Goodwill or Salvation Army store I always see that one sad, lonely, and totally 80′s wedding dress. For the corpse bride look I think the tackier, the better! (Plus you won’t feel as bad destroying it with rips and fake blood.)

What you’ll need: Wedding dress, veil, silk flower bouquet, suit and tie, silk flower boutonniere, white costume makeup (or even very fair foundation, if you have a dark skin tone), and fake blood.
Optional accessories to complete the look: Opera gloves (tear them up a bit), fake eyelashes (if you want to go all out with the dramatic makeup), baby powder (put some in his hair to make him look dusty and decayed) a red lip liner pencil (draw on some cuts and scratches).

dress_suit

DIY Dead Bride and Groom Halloween Costume Accessories
Next, it’s Kate Beckinsale and husband Len Wiseman as horror royalty Frankenstein and his bride from Halloween 2010.

Frankenstein+Bride+Frankenstein+Len+Wiseman+Kate Beckinsale

I am a big fan of these two, and would expect nothing less than horror-ific from the Underworld star and writer/director themselves. Everyone loves Frankenstein, and this couples costume is easily one of the most classic choices of all time. Again, it’s very easy to pull off, and your guy wouldn’t have to do much in the way of dressing up, so they’ll love it.

What you’ll need: Old wedding dress, white dress or store-bought bride costume (get creative!), Bride of Frankenstein wig, white costume makeup, Frankenstein mask, black blazer or jacket, big black boots.
Optional accessories to complete the look: Ghoulish jewelry (check out the stitch choker below!), black costume makeup (rub some under your cheekbones for added drama), sunglasses, leather pants.

DIY Frankenstein & Bride Halloween Costume

Here’s another fun one – Sophia Bush and Austin Nichols went as now famous exes Katy Perry and Russell Brand in 2010.

Russell-Brand-Katy-Perry

Ok, so this really may just be an excuse to dress slutty and don a blue wig, but you have to admit, it’s pretty funny. For the Katy Perry look any low-cut dress will do – just remember, the more cleavage the better, and stick to wildly bright colors or patterns. For Russell Brand, a long curly wig is a must, and of course, the half unbuttoned shirt.

What you’ll need: A fun, California girl inspired dress, blue wig (you could also go with lavender), curly brown wig, men’s button-up shirt (not fully buttoned, as mentioned afore), lots of necklaces.
Optional accessories to complete the look: Vest (unbuttoned, of course), sunglasses, scarf.

DIY Katy Perry & Russell Brand Halloween Costumes
There are so many more great costume ideas from celebrities…
Celebrity Halloween Costumes
(Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart as nerds; Emma Roberts as her aunt, Julia Roberts, from Pretty Woman; Ryan Seacrest and Julianne Hough as Bonnie & Clyde; Gwen Stefani as Jesse from Toy Story; Kim Kardashian as Poison Ivy; Scott Disick as American Psycho Patrick Bateman; newlyweds Shenae Grimes and Josh Beech as Frankenstein and Bride; Lauren Conrad as Minnie Mouse; Katy Perry as a vampire.)
Of course, you could always choose the trusty (and my fave!) Lois Lane & Clark Kent/Superman costume!
Lois Lane_Clark Kent

Happy Halloween!

Music Monday – Electronica Obsessions

7 Oct

So I am pretty sure that in some alternate universe I am a club kid. You know, those people who live in NYC and go to nightclubs with glow sticks and lose themselves in techno music. Yeah, you know. I just can’t help myself when I hear it, y’all. Electronic, progressive, ambient, techno, I love it all. Sometimes it scares me that I am so into this kind of music but most of the time I just go with it.  I love turning on my deadmau5 Pandora station while I’m working at the computer – it’s hours of amazing, trance-like background tunes. Plus, it’s amazing workout music!

I’m lucky because right now there seems to be a spike in that genre and everyone is teaming up with DJ’s to make their songs more electronic. Here are a few that I can’t get enough of lately… if you’ve never given this type of music a try, here’s your chance!

(click images for links to awesomeness videos)

Lana-Del-Rey-Summertime-Sadness-Remix

Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness Remix
Miss. Lana is so alluring and so is the mix behind her sultry voice in this gem.

Calvin Harris-Ellie Goulding-I Need Your Love

Calvin Harris Feat. Ellie Goulding – I Need Your Love
This guy is huge right now, and so is Ellie – double tap! I love this fun, upbeat song! And how cute are these two in this video??

Zedd-Stay-The-Night

Zedd Feat. Hayley Williams of Paramore – Stay The Night
Ok, if you haven’t heard me say it before, I freaking love Hayley Williams. Like, I’m obsessed with her. And now I’m obsessed with this song, too.

Skrillex-Scary-Monsters-And-Nice-Sprites

Skrillex – Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
This one is kinda cray-cray. If you’ve seen Spring Breakers you will recognize it. I dig the insane and erratic chords.

deadmau5

deadmau5 – Raise Your Weapon
I love this guy. He’s really creative and loves cats. Slow things down with this one and lose yourself in the trance!

La-Roux-in-For-The-Kill

La Roux – In For The Kill Skrillex Remix
She is super cute and reminds me of a little fairy. This song is light and airy but then Skrillex really mixes things up in the middle.

calvin-harris-sweet-nothing

Calvin Harris Feat. Florence Welch – Sweet Nothing
Ok, prepare to be blown away. Calvin is back but this time with the one and only Flo (minus the machine). She’s so amazing. This video is pretty amazing, too.

Swedish_House_Mafia-Don_t_You_Worry_Child_(Featuring_John_Martin)

Swedish House Mafia Feat. John Martin – Don’t You Worry Child
This is a great upbeat song that I can’t help but sing along to at the top of my lungs! (While dancing around like a nerd, of course.)

Do you like this type of music? If so, what are some of your faves?

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