Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

What a week it has been! I had so much I planned to blog about: how I wrapped everything, our neighbor gifts, our New Year's gifts and then life happened. I know I am not alone as so many people have emailed or called me with similar stories. In years past, this would have sent me over the edge, but this year I really feel like God has just stepped in and help me chill out!

Baby C has both pneumonia and RSV, Mr. G has bronchitis and Mini K and I are on a lovely Z-Pack cocktail. We found out my mom wouldn't be able to be with us on Christmas due to a strong dose of radiation and Baby C being under 2 and 6 friends will now be getting New Year's and not Christmas presents. Baby C decided the one thing he really wanted to throw was not a ball, but the Christmas ornament Mini K had made at school. The egg nog poundcake for Christmas breakfast will be made tomorrow morning. All of these things would have sent me into tears last year, but this year, I just accepted it. I am not taking credit for my calm at all, it is all God.

Something this week made me embrace it. If I couldn't control it or fix it I just accepted it. It was hard, then it got easier. Two dear friends were really sick so we took them Chick Fil A chicken noodle soup. I gave up thinking the family room had to be spotless without a toy in sight every night.

Tonight, Mini K and I went to mass alone as Baby C couldn't go so Mr. G stayed home. It was the first year she knew all of the carols and it was so special to sit next to her and sing with her. We played Santa on our way home to a few good friends, then picked up Baby C and took both of them in for a check with our doctor on call at the hospital. Thankfully, Mini K's lungs are clear and Baby C doesn't seem to realize he is really sick.

Dinner was takeout, not what I had planned, but the kids didn't seem to care. I don't know why I felt like I had to get on my computer and post this, but I did. As I type, Mr. G and Mini K are watching Santa videos on Norad Santa and I did sneak in a few presents for myself at the last Call after Christmas sale.

I am going to take it all in and realize what I consider to be the biggest and hardest lesson to learn: I am not in the driver seat and that is for the best. Sometimes my plan isn't the one that God wants and I have to accept it. Sometimes life isn't fair, but it is always special, if you look for the blessings instead of for the items on your to do list.

I wanted to take the time and say thank you to all of you that have supported the Grove, the blog and Grove Gal E and I over this year and the years before. Life seems to speed up each year and I am so thankful for the people that support me and my family!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours!


Grove Gal K

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gift Cards

If you have been reading this blog for awhile you know I have a thing about giftcards. I hate the act of just handing them over, no wrapping, no fun and what makes me think no effort. Now before you get mad, I am NOT saying there is no effort involved, or money for that matter, in a giftcard, but I am saying that I believe that deep down, EVERYONE loves the excitement of unwrapping an unexpected present.

Enter my love of cello, and ribbon and fluff in a tub. Fluff in a tub in the Grove casa is not marshmallow, it is what I call the stuff I purchase throughout the year and store in plastic tubs in my gift closet. I have a tub for kids, one for my girlfriends and one that is unisex. I pick these items up at Old Navy, Michaels, Joanne and Justice online. A little tip: both Michaels and Joannes ALWAYS have a coupon on their website that you can print out for 40% off one item and I am not above making a few trips if I want to stock up.

What you need:

Cello bags and ribbon. Purchase these when craft stores have their 40 and 50% off your ENTIRE purchase and STOCK UP! They dont take up a ton of space and Pinterest has some great ideas on how to store your ribbon.

Some of my twitter friends have asked what items I consider fluff so here is a basic list:
Lipgloss, stickers, pencils, pens and hand sanitizer from the Target $1 section
Hello Kitty items on sale at Old Navy
Glow in the Dark and Mood changing nail polish and lip gloss from Justice
Mini Hairburshes from Michaels and Justice
ipod accessories
fun breathmints or gum

As for Justice, I REFUSE to step inside the store, but thankfully they are on ebates and run 40% off sales on a regular basis. YES, I am still on the ebates bandwagon and have over $100 coming to me in January from doing my Christmas shopping online and I plan to spend it on an anti-aging facial. If you haven't signed up, take advantage of the J.Crew 30% off EVERYTHING and Justice sales by joining HERE. One last thing, you get 20% cash back for purchases at Snapfish, so while your family thinks you are being so sweet for sending them photo gifts, you can be planning your next trip to the spa!

Now onto giftcards. I am going to talk about how I wrap 4 types of giftcards.
I have 2 go to ways to give a Starbuck's card:
1. Purchase the keyring giftcards and attach it to a fun keyring. I always tend to go for a monogrammed option! Put them in a cello bag and tie with a bow. You can either attach a gift tag or fill out the to and from on the giftcard and the "tag" is on the actual present

2. When you purchase your giftcard ask for a tall size cup and lid. Put the giftcard and a note inside the cup, put the lid on the cup and attach a stopper. Place the cup in a cello bag and tie with a bow. It adds a little size to the card.

This is what we give the teacher's at Baby C's daycare. I purchase the giftcard boxes at 50% off during the day after Christmas sales. Last year they had a ton of sparkly turquoise and pink stripe and red and white stripe. I can use those patterns all year so I literally purchased 50, for $6 total. Score! I have been using them all year. I put the giftcard in the box, put it in a cello bag and add a big bow that depending on who I am giving it to might have a small bottle of hand lotion or hand sanitizer or lipgloss attached to the bow.
The mother of tween giftcards! I am extra careful with these because Mini K knows what itunes is and I don't like her to think of giving her cousins, or friends cash. She is almost 6, she will have the rest of her adult life to budget, but her childhood I want focused on seeing excitement in her friends and families' faces when they open a present. I try to wrap an itunes card with some sort of music accessory: fun earbuds, a keychain speaker, a cord keeper. It keeps the theme of music and if we are giving the itunes giftcard to a movie fan (my Dad!) we put a bag of microwave popcorn or some 3D glasses in the cello bag and a bow!

Food / Restaurant
This year, my nephews really wanted Subway giftcards. They live in Chicago and Subway is their afternoon snack before a hockey game or after practice. We know they listen to their ipods when they warm up so we put a cord keeper in the cell bag with their giftcard and a box of Altoids. If the giftcard is for a nicer restaurant, say Capital Grille, you could throw in one of those handbag hangers, a wine opener or when you are at the restaurant purchasing said giftcard, pick up a few boxes of their matches to put in with the giftcard. You can also usually find inexpensive small candles. In other words, if you are giving your parents a "night out" put the matches, the candle and the gift card in the cello bag and you have given them a lot more than a giftcard without spending a lot more money.

I hope this helps and if you need any ideas, leave a comment or send me an email.

In other news, we celebrated Mini K's 6th birthday in Eloise fashion on Friday night with 26 of her closest girlfriends! My ears are still ringing, but they all had a great time. I promise more details tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fountain of Youth

No this isn't a post on some miracle cream (if you find one let me know!) or spa procedure, but sometimes it just feels good to feel young...even after you have entered your REAL birthdate!

I know I promised a post on wrapping giftcards, and it is coming tomorrow! Today I wanted to help you with filler, some last minute shopping and maybe something for yourself.

Remember your college days, where the end of the month seemed to last forever and you couldn't wait for a new month to begin so your allowance would start all over? I might be alone here, and for those commenters who never want to leave their name, YES I did work in college and graduated in 3 years so you can leave all the comments you want about being spoiled as I know the truth.

Well our college babysitter introduced me to UScoop about a month ago and I am hooked. The best part is you DO NOT have to be in college to be a member! The deals are geared towards the classic preppy lifestyle with an occaisional curveball of quirky thrown in. It is not a daily deal site, but the deals tend to occur around once a week. You can join HERE.

Now what does this have to do with wrapping giftcards? I like to wrap my giftcards with an item and I call that filler. The filler needs to be related and I always purchase filler in bulk, usually on sale and store it in plastic tubs that I label: guys, girls and minnies. This way I know when I am getting low and can re-stock.

UScoop has a great deal right now with Stephanie Johnson. It is NOT on their website, you had to receive the email to get the code, or have someone share it with you. Allow me: UScoop1 will get you 40% off the ENTIRE site! My favorite items of hers to give are the zippered pouches and the small box bags. They are great alone or with a gift card but I give these bags with a specific purpose. The medium pouches are great when paired with a starbucks card or a fun lipgloss. The small zippered box I use to store all of my charging cords for my ipod, ipad and iphone. I usually give it with a car phone charger (mom), an itunes giftcard (friend), LOTS of Advil (Mini K's teacher!) or band-aids, hand sanitizer and baby wipes (new mom)! I always have a list in my planner of who I gift throughout the year and what I have given them in the past. I jot down if they have a favorite color, are a silver or gold person, etc. It makes shopping A LOT easier.

UScoop is also running deals with Tucker Blair (I prefer the original Smathers and Branson) and Margaret Elizabeth jewelry.

If you haven't checked it out you should, because you never know when you favorite preppy designer might throw out a bone or a deal to their loyal customers!

And for those pesky government FTC types, I wasn't paid to write this post, I just believe in sharing a good deal or a fab find! If you have a deal PLEASE leave a comment so we can all enable each other to shop!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

NYC Weekend

We had the best time with Mini K in New York City and Baby C was all too happy to stay at home and snuggle with Miss T for the weekend!

The weekend was a blur of teas, shopping and yummy food. We surprised Mini K with the Eloise tea at the Palm Court with her friend Mere from school. As you can see the two of them enjoyed themselves!
The train home on Sunday came super fast and we are back in the holiday and birthday rush! Grove Gal E was so sweet to deliver orders over the weekend so I could enjoy the trip with Mini K. I was in line at Staples to see my favorite UPS lady by 8:15am on Monday morning to ship out our family presents as well as 22 orders! (and yes A yours was one of the boxes!)

Mini K and grabbed a couple of stars off the Giving Tree at school and I made time to pick up some happies to add to our giftcard packages. (A couple of you have emailed or tweeted me and YES, tomorrow I am doing a post on how to package giftcards!)

Today was spent chasing down last minute orders and putting the finishing touches on our invite for Sunday's SANTA SALE! Check out our Facebook page (and "Like" us if you haven't already!) as this Sunday we are having a HUGE SALE on all remaining in stock items and our favorite monogrammed totes can still be ordered and DELIVERED in time for Christmas if you are in the D.C. area. We have pink, navy, green and navy and white striped in stock and the totes are $50 each with a monogram.
I am going to spend the next few hours sewing a tulle table skirt for Mini K's Eloise party on Friday night and watching The Biggest Loser season finale. At the start of this year I promised myself I would find the balance and while its never going to be perfect, I also realize that I wasn't made to be anything but super busy....give me free time and I somehow end up behind, but give me a packed schedule and I somehow get it all done with the help of Starbucks and a few sleepless nights. The truth is, it's easy to stay up late if you LOVE what you are doing!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

19 Days and Counting

What is with the calendar this year? It is only the 6th of December and yet I know I am not alone in feeling like Christmas is TOMORROW.

I just hung up with a client who was placing a photo card order. She was SHOCKED that her order would ship on Monday if she ordered it today. She was convinced she would have to RUSH it.

Her call is one of many today so I knew I had to write a post. Grove Gal E and I wanted to make our paper site easy for you: our clients and friends! You upload your photo AND approve your proof when you place your order so there is NO waiting for a proof to be emailed to you.

Orders placed today will ship next week and that leaves you plenty of time to beat Santa to the mailbox!
I do have to admit that I LOVE some of the New Year's Cards that people are ordering today! My favorite so far says:

We wanted to be early!
Happy New Year!

and the other says:

Fashionably Late = Happy New Year!

I love getting cards the week between Christmas and New Year's as it makes you remember the real reason for the season: friends and family and not all of the after Christmas retail frenzy.

As always, Grove Gal E and I are here to help so PLEASE email us if you need assistance with your photo or order.

And have 19 days until Christmas, so grab a red Starbucks cup (or solo cup), take a deep breath and enjoy the season and let us do the work for you!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fab Find Under $30

Last week I had to spend three days in Florida for my day job. Needless to say I came home to an even longer to do list and orders to deliver!

Mini K and I had to take time out to shop the Junior League of Washington's Capital Collection of Shops. We stumbled upon a sugar plum fairy booth of sorts and walked away with yet another product I wish I had invented!

For weeks every single time we have gone to the grocery store or Target, Mini K has wanted one of those gingerbread house kits. I just don't trust them. I fear they were made in China, by some child Mini K's age and been in a box for too many years to count. I know she will lick her fingers to eat a piece of the candy and I just don't want to think about it.

Am I alone in that thinking?

Well if I am not let me introduce you to the Lollipop Lodge. It is a safe plastic, reuseable gingerbread house kit that costs less than $30. I am NOT KIDDING. The best part, other than you can use it year after year, or holiday after holiday, is that you wash the candy off with hot water and it can go in the dishwasher! Seriously, all you need to add is the frosting and the candy! Pure genius if you ask me.

We have been focused on FINALLY putting lights and ornaments on our tree, but the gingerbread house is on our to do list for the weekend after we go to NYC.

For those of you in the D.C. area trying to figure out how to make your gift card presents look a little bigger, bring your gift cards to our FINAL cash and carry trunk show of the season on Sunday, December 18th. We will happily bag and bow any giftcards with purchase.

I had to share our Lollipop Lodge with you, but I am back to Groveland to process orders and plan tomorrow's deliveries!