Thing #1: I ridiculously love Holiday Gift Guides, and this one from Real Simple Magazine is my most anticipated every year:
Real Simple Magazine 2013 Holiday Gift Guide
Thing #2: I always keep my nails super short (workplace hazard as a gynecologist, y’all) and rarely polish them, but this was so pretty I had to consider it for the holidays. Now only if I had somewhere fun to go!
Sally Hansen “Diamonds,” #120 Nail Polish
By now, you know I like nice stuff.
Scoring a killer deal on luxury goods is one of my greatest pleasures in life.
I can’t reveal the details of my greatest score of all time – getting this Burberry coat for free! Yes, free! – but I definitely have a system for finding hidden deals or at least getting a little something extra with almost all of the major purchases I make. It’s definitely part of the thrill of the hunt.
Here’s how I do it:
- I’m a major sucker for beauty gifts with purchase. I’ve been loyal to Bobbi Brown cosmetics for nearly 20 years and she deserves a post all of her own (Top 5 celebrities I want to befriend, for sure). If you watch carefully you can get Bobbi gifts with purchase from time to time from Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus, often in conjunction with an in-store Beauty Event. Usually it’s a mini version of one or two products, and I typically hoard these for when I travel. The best scores, IMHO, are travel makeup brushes with full-sized heads and short handles. This blush brush was part of a recent promotion at Nordstrom. I pulled this picture off of the internet, so it’s not the best, but you get the gist. Perfect for travel!
Bobbi Brown Travel Blush Brush
Hands down, though, the best free swag comes directly from Bobbi herself. If you sign up for emails (or even texts!) from her website, you sometimes get the chance to shop new items first and there are almost always deluxe samples that come along with any purchase. The packaging and gift wrapping are also superb, and it’s easy to qualify for free shipping.
- Another way to get a little something extra is with Loyalty Rewards. I don’t have many credit cards, but I do have them for the three places I shop the most: Nordstrom, J. Crew and Banana Republic. Each has a reward program to send you gift certificates for future purchases based on the amount you buy. As I posted last week, Nordstrom recently offered up the unicorn: A ten point per dollar day. That’s when you splurge. You don’t get an immediate deal that day, but you get incremental $20 coupons for the future, and I always know I’ll be baaaack.
- FLD tip: If you want to go big and get a Vuitton bag, the Nordstrom store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago is the only one in the chain that carries them. The time to buy is when they have a scheduled double or triple points day (or if your Reward Level allows, you can schedule your own personal triple point day). A technicality in the reward system only permits double – not triple or higher – points per dollar on Vuitton purchases, but trust me, even double points on a bag that spendy will snag you at least $20-$40 back.
- Neiman Marcus offers a similar deal a few times a year, where you can get a gift card up to $500, depending on the amount you purchase. If you have your eye on something, it’s worth the wait. One really nice bag or a couple of pairs of shoes can easily net you $150. I don’t shop at NM that much, but occasionally I will since they carry some brands I like (Gucci, Clare Vivier) that Nordstrom doesn’t.
- Drugstore.com will usually run a 20% off promotion close to the holidays. I fall in and out of love with this brand, but currently I’m back in like with Philosophy. They have a lot of widely-pleasing scents and some nice gift sets, and Drugstore.com has a huge range of their products. You can also use the discount on another of my all-time bath and body favorites, Bliss, as well as any pricey hair tool (flat iron, etc) that ‘s on your wish list.
- J. Crew used to be really stingy about discounts, but they’ve been coming a lot more often in the past couple of years. Sometimes you need to buy a minimum to get 25-30% off, but it’s pretty easy to do. Where J. Crew really rocks is that they frequently add an additional 30-40% off items that are already on sale. This is where you score the big deals here. (FLD tip: If you love something at J. Crew and it’s no longer available, keep checking back. They often seem to sneak a few extras in or something will surprisingly return when all hope seemed lost. Their website will also sometimes post a discounted price for an item that’s just about to go on sale, but hasn’t officially hit the sale rack yet).
- I’ve mentioned this before, but don’t ever pay full price for anything at Banana Republic, Old Navy or the Gap. Wait five minutes, and it’ll be on sale. Their deals are so frequent that I’ve become really picky about them, and I usually don’t bite unless something’s 40% or more off. Shipping is almost always free, too.
- A couple of other good brands fall under the Gap umbrella, namely Piper Lime and Athleta. They aren’t as generous with their sales, but every once in a while, they’ll float a 20% off deal. For Athleta, that’s when it’s time to stock up on cute workout everything, and the Piper Lime site gets you some deals on desirable brands like Rag & Bone and Vince.
- Another designer I love is Tory Burch. A few times a year (Memorial Day is usually one), she’ll run a Friends and Family event with a flat 30% off or else a graduated promotion where the more you spend, the bigger discount you receive. Obviously, this is the time to stock up on Reva flats. I’m often too cheap to pay full price for Tory, but that 30% discount can put me past the tipping point.
- The same thing goes for Kate Spade. Out of all the stuff she designs, I love her jewelry the most and own more than I should probably admit. On top of Friends and Family events, she’ll occasionally run flash sales where you can get amazing deals on merchandise that just went out of season. Sign up for her emails and you’re in the loop.
- Another place I absolutely love for gifts is Henri Bendel. Their house brand candles are simply the best in the world. I’ve given them for hostess gifts a thousand times and everyone goes nuts for how beautifully they’re packaged and how great they smell. They’re expensive, though, and I never pay full price. My second best shopping score: Once there was a packaging error (but one that no one would really notice) and they were 75% off. I bought 40. [Why I love Ever Patient Spouse so much: Many other spouses would have filed for divorce on the spot, but he just asked if I was planning to open a candle shop and then sighed and shook his head, like always]. And you’re in luck: Bendel’s is having a promotion right now! Go get some candles.
This is cool, even if you’re not a big Dylan fan.
You have to click through, but it’s so worth it to make it interactive.
P.S. Thanks to Ever Patient Spouse to tipping me off about this video.
Are you drinking wine on Tuesday night?
You are? Well, let me suggest this bottle:
My friend Jamie and I swear we taste bacon in here, and I suspect this would be a huge plus for many of you.
Or how about this one:
Dreaming Tree Crush
Also good, with a mid-week price point.
Today, I had the opportunity to interview potential new colleagues at the World Famous Medical Center (WFMC) where I’m employed.
This is actually a lot of fun.
I’m not giving anything away here when I say that the WFMC uses behavioral interviewing techniques that try to create a character portrait of the applicants and determine who’s the best fit.
After asking the same questions over and over, you can’t help but reflect on how you would answer each particular inquiry. And as a shameless extrovert, I also can’t help thinking how I would love the center stage to answer these questions, including the possibility that some responses would involve exposition, props, and theme music.
One part of one question asks applicants about their strongest opportunities for growth. Translation: This is a nice way to ask about your personal weaknesses.
Would I need extra time on this one!
One of my firm beliefs is that we’re all a work in progress, especially me.
All I can say in summary is that several months ago, a dear friend and colleague who gets me completely (We have the same Myers-Briggs personality type, ENTJ, among the rarest of types, accounting for ~2–5% of males and ~1-3% of females. But ENTJs make great cult leaders!), took me aside and basically told me this: “Sometimes you need to not be so much like yourself.”
Wow. That hit the nail on the head.
I couldn’t have said it better.
MGM (6) made this wish list for Santa:
- Hex bugs. This is some type of weird, semi-popular insect toy.
- “Every Nerd Blaster.” Ok, this took some figuring out, but I eventually realized he meant a Nerf Blaster. Since Fancy Pants Ranch does not condone weapons, he made a special point of saying, “Sorry, Mom, I hate to tell you but Santa is bringing me a Nerd gun.” Umm, no, he’s not.
- One Hot Wheels set that has an orange dinosaur (Seems like an anachronistic stretch, but ok, I’ll go with it).
- One Legends of Chima Lego set.
I went gaga for this Lulu Frost necklace and had to make it mine:
Lulu Frost Big Bang Necklace
Definitely splurgy, but I plan to wear it everywhere this holiday season. It looks even better in person!
Lulu Frost did a separate line for J. Crew and here is a piece with a similar feel. Huge bonus: Not only is it already on sale, you can get an extra 40% off with code Styletime.
Lulu Frost for J. Crew Necklace
Ok, be honest here. On a scale of 1 (“Scooby Doo”) to 10 (“The Exorcist”), how creepy are these baby dolls I brought back from Spain for Trixie?
Spouse seems to think they’ll go all Chucky on us while we’re sleeping.
P.S. Inexplicably, they have been christened “Rosie” and “Princess Butterfly.”
Apparently November is some type of Gratitude Awareness month, which I’ve surmised from reading all of the “Today, I’m grateful for …” posts I’ve been seeing on Facebook.
I actually love this idea, although it can certainly skew a bit twee. Overall, though, I think stopping the carousel once in a while to appreciate the view is a Good Thing.
So, in that spirit, here’s what I’m grateful for in this moment.
- The existence of cronuts. Yes. I said it. Family and friends, of course I’m grateful to have you. (Or really, for you to continue having me). But cronuts, that’s another love entirely. Basically a cronut is what happens when a croissant and a donut have a baby. Pure heaven. The ones from this place should be illegal.
Cronuts from Angel Food Bakery in Minneapolis, MN
- Hearing a great song on the radio. I have another post where I’ll expand on this, but isn’t it awesome to stumble upon a an auditory relic you love but haven’t heard in ages? At the risk of totally embarrassing myself right now, I’ll admit that when this song came on this morning during my short drive, I turned the volume way up.
Best line: I saw a werewolf drinkin’ a pina colada at Trader Vic’s and his hair was perfect. Love the inflection on “perfect.”
- Being able to run. Today I ran 11 miles. Now I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I dig it. And I’m glad to be able to run. I attribute my love of running directly to my Dad, who ran throughout the 70s and 80s when it wasn’t a Thing yet. He had a lot of tall sweat socks and when it was cool outside, he almost always wore the same navy blue windbreaker that he’d had since high school. At first I’d bike alongside him as a kid, then by high school, we’d run together. We even did a 4 mile loop the day I got married. Sadly, that was one of the last times we ran together. My Dad’s been dead now since 2002, and one of the things I always wanted to do was run a marathon for him – a dream he didn’t get the chance to achieve. I finally did it in 2006 (and 6 times since), and there’s always a moment in the race when I get choked up thinking about how he would love to be right beside me, and I feel profoundly lucky to be able to even be at the starting line.
- Being done with a marathon. Honestly, the during part isn’t too hot. But done? Yeah. Cronut time!
- And because I’m gross and shallow, I always get a rush of excitement (ok, not quite noble gratitude) when I see a package on our doorstep. This week, I am pretty darn grateful to Nordstrom for their fast and free shipping, double and triple points days (plus a 10 point day coming up! Ahhhhhh!), and the huge box that just arrived on my doorstep containing things like this:
Tory Burch Iridescent Hologram Bracelet
PJ Salvage Skull Sleeping Shorts. Super soft and now on sale.
Big Buddha Infinity Scarf. Bright colors really pop against the gray. My new winter scarf!
So, yeah, I have a small problem with hotel toiletries. Here’s the current stash:
The Spouse unfairly categorizes my selective hoarding as “stealing.” I totally disagree. Hotels would not supply these adorable products if they didn’t want me to take them. Plus, I make good use out of them. They either end up in my gym bag for post-workout showering or they are generously provided to guests who stay with us at Fancy Pants Ranch. This is up-cycling at its finest. You’re welcome, Earth.
I do have standards, though. I won’t just take any old bar of soap. A lot of my stash is from W Hotels, where they stock Bliss products that are pretty awesome. This amazing hotel practically drowns you in L’Occitane, which is even better. But the champion of them all is the Parker Palm Springs, which is such a great place to stay that I’ll give it a whole post in the future.
I almost died with happiness.
That soap is Hermes, y’all.