Gifts for the Graduate

Tis the season for graduation announcements to arrive in your mailbox as young men and women begin a huge change in life!  You have the high school graduate who is leaving childhood behind and the college graduate ready to take on the world.


Besides receiving several announcements, this was a year in which we sent out a few for our own high school graduate.


We’ve been asked no less than 30 times what would be a good gift idea for MacKenzie as she is leaving high school behind and moving off to college in August.  So I thought it would be fun to put together a few ideas that you can use for celebrating and gifting your own graduates.

1.  Money.  I know, not very personal, but if your graduate is going to college in any form, money is needed.  They can use this for books, supplies, or even put it towards decorating a dorm room should they be going away.

2.  Gift Cards.  Yes, once again, not very personal but very useful.

Gift Cards

For example gas gift cards are perfect for a graduate whether they are commuting to school or living away from home on campus.

Department store gift cards.  These are awesome for high school and college graduates alike as kids will be looking to make a wardrobe change leaving behind the clothes of their teenage years or looking forward to a business wardrobe.

Restaurant or movie theater gift cards.  I went away to college 25 years ago, and while a lot has changed, being broke in college has not!   I appreciated the treat of leaving campus for supper or a movie upon occasion and I’m sure that has not changed at all for any student.

Bed, Bath & Beyond, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, etc…. gift cards.  These are perfect for the student decorating their dorm room or their own apartment for the first time.  From bedding to wall art these are invaluable.

Barnes & Noble gift card.  So many college campuses have a B&N on them or use them as an option for students to purchase their textbooks.  This would definitely be appreciated!

3.  A bicycle.  Oh yeah.  This is the perfect gift for a high school grad who will be living on campus when they go to college in the fall.  Not only will they save gas, it’s a means of getting to class on time and exercise.

Well, maybe something a bit more mature ....

Well, maybe something a bit more mature ….

And don’t forget the lock!

4.  Anything monogrammed.  Of course this is more fitting for a young lady, but it would be something that would definitely make her smile.  From a duffel bag to an infinity scarf in school colors to a throw pillow or bath towels, options are limitless for ideas to make a girl smile.

Love this duffel!

Love this duffel!

5.  AAA Membership.  Just for a year, but if your graduate will be on the road a lot this would be perfect in helping them (as well as Dad & Mom) feel a wee bit more secure on the road.  They don’t teach kids how to change a tire in school, so if you haven’t done that yourself, this would be a real plus.


6.  Picture Frames.  Simple, yes and practical as well.  What better way for a young person to keep their memories close than to display them.


  And speaking of memories, a Shutterfly gift card is an awesome way for the graduate to make a book highlighting their senior year or print off pictures for those frames.


7.  Looking for sentimental?  How about a quilt made from T-shirts representing all those memorable events from high school or college?  Check out this one my mom made for MacKenzie.


Needless to say she now has a list of teenagers wanting their own.

Another sentimental gift idea.... This is one of my favorite gifts to give!

Another sentimental gift idea…. This is one of my favorite gifts to give!

8.  A high quality backpack, computer bag or briefcase.  Perfect for the grad heading off to college or the college grad stepping into the corporate world.

9.  Treat the recent grad to a trip to the salon.  A new “do” to leave your teen or fraternity days behind is a great gift to give.

10.  Gift baskets.  You can’t go wrong with a reusable basket full of bathroom/grooming supplies (shampoo, soap, razors, shaving cream, etc…), a laundry basket ( or monogrammed laundry bag) with detergent, dryer sheets & a book on how to do laundry, a bread basket with useful kitchen gadgets and towels, or a school supply basket filled with Post-it notes, Sharpies, highlights, a day planner, lead pencils, pens, college ruled notebooks, etc….

All of these are fabulous and useful for just about any recent graduate.

Hopefully a few of these ideas will inspire you as you try to come up with gift ideas for the graduate in your life.

I would love to hear your suggestions for gift ideas!


Fit Friday: 15 Gifts that will Build Fitness

The New Year has arrived and along with it comes more than half the people you know that have made the resolution to be more healthy and/or fit in 2015.  We all know that resolution; we’ve all made it at one time or another.  But for me, the New Year brings a whole lot of gift giving.  It’s not the 12 days of Christmas, but birthday season.  That means between now and June each of my nieces and nephews, as well as my own children, will have their birthdays.  I’m one of those aunts/moms that loves to find something useful or educational as a gift, so here are some great ideas for gifts that will encourage kids and adults alike to get out and get to moving!  WIth the help of a fitness-oriented gift, some of those New Years resolutions may become realities.


Here are several suggestions (in all price ranges) that are perfect for promoting fitness in children and adults alike!


1.  Toys that will get the kiddos moving… skateboards, ripsticks, bikes (with a helmet), scooters, hula hoops …. emphasize that fitness is fun!

2. Kids love music and kids love to dance.  Keeping that in mind, Shaun T’s Fit Kids Club DVD (Beachbody) with it’s popping music will have kids of all ages and stages dancing their booties off.

3.  If you don’t mind spending a little more for kids challenge older ones in your family with a home wall climbing kit.  You can find these as accessories to backyard playsets or construct one in a garage or basement.  Also, kids LOVE trampolines and will spend hours bouncing, flipping and flopping on one.  This is great cardiovascular exercise as well as good for their little muscles.

4.  A gift certificate for a class.  Think ballet or dance, karate, or even horseback riding.  Think of something that promises fun and adventure, but also keep in mind their own personalities.


5.  Paid registration fees for a Color Run 5K or other fun walk/run.  Register yourself as well and you’ll have a training partner on hand.

6.  Gift certificate for a sports store like Academy or Dick’s Sporting Goods.  If they like to run try a certificate to a running store like Fleet Feet so that they can be properly fitted for running shoes.

7.  FitBit activity trackers.


These are all the rage right now and will sync right up with a smart phone to track number of steps taken in a day, heart rate, sleep patterns, and other personal metrics. It also has an option so that you challenge others who use a FitBit and compete against each other.  A little friendly competition never hurt anyone!


8.  Stainless steel or BPA-free water bottles ( GAIAM, Klean Kanteen, CafePress)  reduce plastic in landfills and come in tons of fun designs to fit every personality!

9.  A small iPod shuffle is perfect for working out/running.


You can throw in an iTunes gift card so that they can download a few hip tunes and they will be ready to go!

10.  Earphones or ear buds that won’t fall off during a workout are always a welcome treat!

11.  Easy at-home workout equipment like resistance bands, a bosu or ball help with all over fitness routines without going to the gym.


12.  Indoor rock climbing adventure gift certificates (from for an afternoon of family fun (and often entertainment!) White water rafting is also a fun family adventure!

13.  SherrillTree offers tips and gear – like pulleys and snaps – for recreational tree climbing.  Both adults and kids would love this!

14. Family gift cards to a trampoline center like Gravitopia or Pump-it-Up (Different cities have different names for these places).

15. My all-time favorite Twister.


Surly you remember this fun game from your own childhood!  Imagine the laughs everyone would have with this!

A few guidelines for giving fitness related gifts; give them only to those you are close to, and those who would welcome and enjoy them!  Base the gift on what the recipient does or wants to do, not on what you would like for them to do.  Never give a fitness gift that suggests they lose weight or try a new sport, unless they are game.  When in doubt, ask.

Have you ever given or received a fitness related gift?  How did you enjoy it?



Seasoned Finishing Salts

Grocery stores and malls are packed with last minute shoppers, and in just a few hours and Santa will be making his rounds.
My three teenagers are thrilled and thankfully not too old to indulge in a little holiday fun!
As promised yesterday, I have one more quick and easy last minute gift to share with you.  This little item makes a great hostess gift for any holiday gathering or just a neat touch to add to a gift for the cook in the family.
And it’ll keep you from having to run out in the Christmas Eve mobs last minute to grab one last gift!
I was inspired to create this after seeing finishing salts (in Weck jars) for sale at $10.00 each in a culinary store.
I knew I could make them much cheaper!
Audley said mine were probably better as well.
The simplicity of this project is what makes it so great!  If you enjoy cooking, you probably have all of the ingredients right on hand.
All you need is 24 ounces of coarse sea salt, 4-5 tablespoons dried rosemary, 3-4  tablespoons dried garlic, and peppercorns.
Four ingredients and a jar for presentation.
That’s it.


In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients.
For the peppercorns, I used a pepper grinder and added about 2-3 tablespoons.


I used Weck jars that I already had on hand


 Once everything has been combined in your bowl, pour into little jars and seal.


Add a little holiday flourish and you have a five minute gift (or treat for yourself) that looks great and is a wonderful addition to any beef, chicken, or lamb dinner this Christmas season!
Just sprinkle over the top of the cooked meat to finish it off before serving!
Wishing you all a blessed Christmas Eve!

Herb-Infused Vinegars

Here we are just a couple of days from Christmas.  The trees are trimmed, the snacks are baked, and presents are wrapped.

Are you ready?

I thought so…. You forgot your sister-in-law, aunt, 5th cousin twice removed, or, gulp, your mother-in-law.
Totally feeling you here!

I have a couple of quick and inexpensive gift ideas that will save the day for you!  I’ll share one today and one tomorrow and you’ll be all set for Christmas morning!

First up?
Herb Infused Vinegars that you can make yourself.

Easy peasy, versitile, perfectly lovely for all occasions, not just Christmas.

All you need is bottles with rubber seals for the mixture, assorted fresh herbs, garlic, dried peppers (if your fortunate enough to find them!), and vinegar.

I found these bottles at Ingles Market, but TJ Maxx had some really great ones as well!

Bring your vinegar to a boil over medium high heat.
While waiting for the vinegar to boil, pick which herbs you would like to combine for flavoring your vinegar and add to the jars.  I used rosemary & garlic; tarragon, oregano, chives & garlic; dill & chives for my flavors.

And just a quick note, your garlic may take one bluish hue.  It is a natural reaction to the vinegar  and doesn’t alter the flavor at all!

After adding the fresh herbs, using a funnel, slowly pour the hot vinegar into the bottle, completely covering the herbs.

Be careful when you pour the vinegar because it will pop & burn you!


After you have filled each bottle & seal.  These don’t have to be processed in a hot water bath, generally they will seal up because of the heat from vinegar.

You want to store these in a cool, dark space (a pantry or something)  for about 10 days to allow time for the flavors to infuse.  If you are making these last minute like me, just let the recipient know that they need to sit a few days.

Add ribbon, tags and voila …. it’s an easy gift to give!

These flavored vinegars are great for marinades, salad dressings or just drizzling over fresh steamed veggies.

They also make great hostess gifts for Christmas or New Year’s parties, or any other time of the year!

Tomorrow I will share another super easy (and quick to assemble) culinary gift; seasoned finishing salts.

I hope you will stop back by!