Monday, December 31, 2007

happy new year!

hey all...sorry the posts have been sparse over the last few days. between the holiday festivities and feeling a little under the weather, it's just been hard to be my normally brilliant self ;)

stay tuned in the new year for all sorts of fabulousness, though - i promise it'll be worth it!

and in the meantime, have a wonderful new year's celebration, drink a big glass of bubbly for me, and don't forget to partake in the last of those post-holiday sales!


Thursday, December 27, 2007

what i want today: beautiful bows by gorjana

how precious is this providence necklace by gorjana? i'm loving the delicate size, the double chain detail...really, just about everything. i have no doubt this will become my new daily go-to if i decide to take the plunge and pick it up. fortunately, for $80, it's not exactly a serious investment.

pick it up over at gorjana's website, but make sure you don't get distracted by any of the other the coin wrap necklace, or that gold regal bracelet, both of which i've been lusting after for months....

ooh, and use code HOLIDAY07 to take $25 off your $100 order, $50 off $200, and so on. enjoy!

shoppingsmycardio's top 3 of 2007: beauty

it's been a big year here at shoppingsmycardio - it seems like there's always something wonderful we just have to have. so, it felt fitting to end the year with a roundup of my favorite beauty items, clothing and accessories from 2007.

beauty was actually the easy one for me this year, though i tried out more new beauty products in 2007 than i have in my entire life - by a landslide. but there were 3 products i tried that have definitely become new obsessions for me.

first up is caudalie vinoperfect radiance serum, which i discovered when i visited bluemercury a while back (hmm, speaking of beauty favorites of 2007...can a store be a favorite beauty product?). i am not one to spend crazy amounts on beauty products, so the fact that i was willing to shell out nearly $80 for this should speak volumes. this serum goes on silky smooth, and really just seems to make my skin glow. it claims to decrease redness and beauty marks over time, so i'll keep you posted on that front. but overall, this is my one "can't be without" facial product.

i've always been one of those people who didn't really see much of a difference between facial cleansers. i mean, if it gets the oil off and doesn't make things worse, that's really all i'm looking for. plus, i have freakishly sensitive skin (really, it's sad - just ask my team of allergists). so, for years, i was a dedicated cetaphil girl. but one day, a packet of samples arrived from a company called suki, and i took one whiff of their lemongrass cleanser, and the smell made me so happy that i knew i had to give it a try. it's really sort of a hybrid between a scrub and a cleanser, and it's literally so fabulous that it makes me excited to hop in the shower in the morning. well worth your $24.50.

and, last but not least is my favorite hair product of 2007. this one's tough only because i can't decide which product(s) from the ecru line to include, as i'm pretty obsessed with all of them (as you might recall from the post i did about them earlier this year). but i think i have it narrowed down to either the luxe treatment shampoo, which does a truly amazing job of cleansing without stripping, and the volumizing silk mist, which actually manages to give my obnoxiously heavy hair an amazing amount of volume. though truly, i've tried every product they make, and all are better than anything else in the same genre that i've tried. hair products that actually do what they say they will: genius.

so, there you have it: the best of beauty 2007. stay tuned this week for the rest of my 2007 favorites!

Monday, December 24, 2007

merry merry!

well, 'tis the season for me to take a couple of days off. i hope everyone has a wonderful day of gifts, eggnog and general merriment (not necessarily in that order). and for those that aren't christmas folks (or are just truly obsessive shoppers, like me), well, here are a couple of fabulous sale offers to keep you busy all day tomorrow.

* tobi is offering 25% off sitewide with code PERFECTGIFT

* the grand mademoiselle blog has scored us all an exclusive 15% discount at one of my favorite shoe stores, barefoot tess, with code GRANDM

* basic boutique is offering 25% off sitewide with code BASICGIFT.

* even though they annoy me at times, i wouldn't be doing my job if i didn't let you know that plaza too is offering 20% off with code FAMILY, but only from 12/26 to 12/29.

* and of course, remember that you get 20% off at active endeavors with code CARDIO

i hope everyone has a truly fabulous holiday. ooh, and be sure to stay tuned later this week for a roundup of my absolute favorite items from 2007!

okay, more post before christmas...

i can't resist...the shopbop designer sale started today, and there's loads of holiday temptation to be had. here are a few things that just made it to the top of my christmas list:

this gorgeous cashmere dress by chris benz is a classic waiting to happen.

something about this amazing erickson beamon necklace (above) just screams serious glamour to me. it would have been just the thing for a holdiay dinner i'm attending tonight, but too late for that. i'll have to save it for next year's fetes.

this leather trench by jenni kayne is a splurge, even on sale...but what a splurge it is!

derek lam's handbag line includes several gems, but i love this ultra-ladylike shoulder bag, which just makes me want to dress up and go for tea.

shop fast...i was after an anya hindmarch satchel that sold out before i could click "add to cart".

Sunday, December 23, 2007

what i want today: cheap denim!

nearly all of the post-holiday sales are in full swing now (check out the goodies at active endeavors and at shopbop, to name just a few. ooh, and remember that you can use code cardio to take 20% off anything that's still full-price at active endeavors!), and i can't possibly lead you through them all.

but i will let you in on a fabulous deal on some denim over at banana republic, of all places. i picked up these trouser jeans a while back, and i have to say that if you can completely ignore the fit on the model (which is frightening, i realize) and trust me, i think you'll love them. i'd stack them up against any of my premium denim for both fit and wash. i opted for the tall size, which gave me a nice 34" inseam (the website says 36", but it just can't be right), which i can easily cuff for flats or leave long for heels. they just got marked down to $59, and you can take an extra 20% off through 12/24 with code brholiday, meaning you can score a really well-cut pair of jeans for under $50. in my book, that's about as good as life gets. in fact, i'm thinking i might need a back-up pair...

ooh, one last tip: i am almost always a size smaller in banana republic jeans than i am in anything else they carry. so, size down...or order one of each & return the one that doesn't fit, which is what i'd do.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

shoppingsmycardio gifts: the procrastinator's guide

well, we're officially past every shipping deadline there is...if you haven't ordered yet, you're resigned to the crowds at the mall or a grungy poinsetta from your neighborhood grocery store.

unless, of course, you're willing to get creative.

my favorite last-minute gift, and one i gave just yesterday, is a gift certificate to 20x200, a fabulous website that features limited edition art (200 of each) from semi-well-known artists for a cool $20. new pieces debut twice a week. you can purchase a "credit" gift certificate for $28.50 (you're covering the shipping costs too), which will let your recipient go online, pick out the piece of art of their choice, and it will arrive at their door with your compliments.

another great option for avoiding the mall crunch is to check out the "shop local" section on you can find loads of great gift options just a starbucks meet-up away. just pick your gift, and send the artist a message asking if the item might be available for pick-up. most of the folks on etsy are so sweet they'll probably even gift wrap it for you!

if neither of those work for you, or you're just ready to throw your hands up, i have to admit i'm still a fan of the cheesy homemade gift, but i do so prefer when it's thoughtful and specific to the recipient, not just the generic plate of cookies that gets passed around this time of year. have a friend that thinks your chicken enchiladas are to die for? go to the hardware store, pick up a pyrex, make her up a batch, and attach the recipe. have a serious cheese fiend in your life? head to whole foods, grab a few selections, a bottle of fig jam, and a cheese board, and you have a gift she'll be thanking her stars for well past new year's day.

(a big thanks to design sponge and lisa solomon for the gorgeous photo, above. if only my kitchen looked that great when i baked. and click here to check out lisa's banana bread recipe...yum!!)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

what i want today: fabulous pajamas

okay, i don't know about you all, but i'm tired of gifts & ready to be selfish again!

whenever the weather turns cold, i get all excited about cozy, winter-weather attire. chunky sweaters, slippers, throw blankets...and pajamas. all of the cute, lacy stuff i want in the summer is suddenly ridiculous, and all i can think about is cuddling up in some men's-inspired PJs.

i recently came across these amazing designs by CapriRose, and can't seem to think of anything else! i love everything about these gorgeous designs. the colors, the contrasting collars and cuffs (so, so cute!), and the super-soft cotton they use for every pair (think about your favorite percale sheets...mmm). they'll set you back about $125, but if they're half as comfy as they are cute, they're worth every penny. plus 10% of the proceeds from some of their designs go to support new orleans charities, and i'm all about the giving-while-shopping phenom.

if you don't have a gift for a wonderful woman in your life yet, these are a can't-miss option. but for me, these are a gift i'm dying to give myself this year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

shoppingsmycardio interviews: holiday party help from little black apron!

i recently got a chance to check out a new book on the stacks called little black apron. i have to admit that it takes a lot for a cooking/entertaining book to really impress me, but these ladies have done it. the book is geared toward the single girl with zero culinary that makes it the perfect gift for your little sis headed off to college, or your culinarily clueless BFF (gotta love that alliteration, don't you?). but even though it includes introductory information (like how to make a smart grocery list), it also ups the ante with loads of delish, and healthy recipies - all of which are sized for one, which i would have killed for when i was single.

but my favorite part of the book is the section on entertaining, where the authors (nutritionist jodi citrin, chef katie nuanes, and writer melissa gibson) have teamed up to turn entertaining into a science - literally. instead of party 'tips,' they have full-blown party formulas. so, say you want to throw a bridal shower - they have a guide that tells you exactly how many portions of how many different entrees, desserts and drinks you need to make, so the guesswork is gone. just make 5 recipes of curried scallops, double the caramelized onion frittata...and so on. i love it!

but even more exciting news: for those of us that still have holiday parties to throw, the authors of little black apron agreed to do a Q&A for us to help us be those impossibly chic hostesses we dream of being.

shoppingsmycardio: I absolutely love the concept of this book – I wish I’d had it around back in my single days. How did you come up with the idea?

Little Black Apron:
We came up with the concept in a bar! It surfaced during a conversation over being single and living in a city. The more we talked about our experiences in the kitchen the more we knew that other girls had to feel the same way. We would work all day, come home, be under-whelmed by what was in our refrigerator and inevitably order take out. Thus, we were spending a considerable amount of money on food, gaining weight and losing out on cooking nutritious meals for ourselves.

SMC: The three of you seem like such a perfect team. How did you all come together on this project?

Katie and I met through a mutual friend in San Francisco. We literally began talking about the concept in a bar that evening and by the next morning began working on an outline. Jodi and I are best friends from college (Duke University) and she immediately loved the concept when I explained it to her. Katie and I knew that the book required an additional angle and voice, and nutrition seemed like the perfect fit. The irony is that we wrote the entire book over email and Katie (living in Orange County) and Jodi (living in NYC) didn’t meet “in person” until after we’d turned in our first draft.

SMC: So, initially, this book looks like “just another cookbook.” But you’ve included a lot of basic culinary and dietary info as a primer, which you don’t see done very often. Was that an important part of the book to you, or did you approach this primarily as a cookbook project?

The book was written for the cooking neophyte. We knew, based on our experiences and those of our fellow single friends, that most women didn’t know anything about their kitchen – from a grater to Gorgonzola. We wanted to breakdown the misconception that the kitchen is an intimidating arena. Like most things in life, if you have an understanding of basic vernacular and have the right tools, you’re much more apt to succeed at the task; cooking is no exception.

SMC: With the holidays upon us, I’d love to pick your brains for some tips and tricks for holiday parties. It just feels like so much work around the holidays to put a party together. But of course, we all want to see our friends and family together this time of year. What’s your favorite way to throw a low-key holiday get-together?

Inspiration from a dish you want to try or simply no reason at all, other than surrounding yourself by those whom you adore, entertaining is the perfect way to hone your cooking skills. Below is an outline for a simple and chic bash that any girl can pull off. The trick to any successful event is planning. Set a theme, plan your menu, plot a timeline/schedule, and create a budget.

SMC: And if you really want to go all-out, can you give us some guidelines for that type of event?

Outlined below is a "chic, but cheap" New Year's Eve soiree that is sure to be a crowd pleaser for anyone's guests. We believe that every event should have a theme. For this New Year's Eve, why not intrigue your guests with the seductive and sultry atmosphere of Morocco. Create an ambiance of North Africa from your decorations to your dessert: A Night in Marrakech.

Below are a few recipes that are the perfect way to cater to your guests without breaking your pocketbook. The recipes are pulled from our book The Little Black Apron: A Single Girl's Guide to Cooking with Style & Grace, but have been increased from "portions for one" to portions for a party that serves guests.

Store-bought spreads are an easy way to satisfy your guests before the main event. All of the items below can be purchased at your local supermarket, but we've found that Trader Joe's is perfect!!

Hummus (2-3 containers)
Babaganoush (1 container)
Toasted Pita (1/2-1 pita per person)

North African Carrot Salad
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 3-4 lemons
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
5 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
15-20 carrots, peeled and sliced on an angle into 1/8" slices
3/4 cup golden raisins
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine the oil, lemon juice, honey, and cumin in a bowl and mix well.
2. Add the cilantro, carrots, raisins, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Maple Dijon Salmon
5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons maple syrup
2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions (aka green onions), use both white and green parts
3 tablespoons garam masala (North African spice blend, found on teh spice aisle of your grocery store)
10 4-6 ounce salmon filets, pin bones removed (the bones that run through the middle of the filet...ask your fish guy to do this, or it's just as easy to do it yourself with a pair of needle nose pliers)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees
2. In a bowl, combine mustard, syrup, scallions and garam masala
3. Oil a baking sheet with the olive oil. Season both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper and place on th ebaking sheet, then spread about 1 tablespoon of the dijon mixture on each filet
4. Bake the filet for 5-6 minutes, then top each filet with another tablespoon of the dijon mixture and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove each filet using a thin spatula

Cous Cous with Apricots and Smokey Almonds
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 1/2 cups cous cous
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped smoked almonds
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil
2. Add the cous cous and cinnamon, stir, and cover with foil or a lid. Turn off the heat.
3. Let the cous cous sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork to separate all of the grains
4. Stir in butter until melted, than add apricots, almonds, parsley, salt and pepper and combine well

Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt with Figs, Honey and Pistachios
10 scoops low-fat vanilla bean frozen yogurt
20 small ripe figs, stems trimmed, cut into quarters
1/2-3/4 cup lavender honey (or your favorite variety)
3/4 cup chopped toasted pistachios

1. Scoop the frozen yogurt into bowls and top witht the figs
2. Drizzle honey over the figs, then top with pistachios

SMC: That sounds amazing! What are some unique, creative ideas to really make a party special? I love seeing the little touches that really great hostesses use to make their event stand out in your mind.

Below are a handful of very inexpensive, yet chic decorations and entertaining staples that can be used for other occasions, but again, won't put a host/hostess into the red on the first of the year. They can be found at any Cost Plus World Market and many times Target! All items are under $25:
* Lanterns w/ candles
* Moroccan bowls and platters
* Tangine bowl
* Throw pillows
* Party Favors: Sparklers tied with monogrammed wine charms in the shape of blue starts (with silver metallic pen)

SMC: What is your absolute favorite recipe in the book?
Seared Pepperonata Tuna Steak
Jodi: Baked Chicken Smothered in Tomato Sauce and Ricotta
Melissa: Maple, Bacon Brussels Sprouts

SMC: Since we do a lot more shopping than sauteeing here at shoppingsmycardio, tell us about your favorite, no-fail party outfit.

For casual, your favorite pair of jeans, a fabulous (but comfortable) top. From there, depending on what type of shoe-a-holic you are, complete the get-up with stellar knee-high boots, chic flats or fabulous stilettos. For evening, a simple black dress (every girl should have one that fits her perfectly). Dress it up or down depending on how swank the event. Again, your go-to pair of shoes is a must and will set the tone for your ensemble and moreover, illustrate your unique personality. This goes for jewelry as well. We each have our own personal style – Jodi (trendy, colorful and themed with each outfit); Katie (chunky and mismatched with lots of metallic); Melissa (lots of jewelry that seems to never comes off or change by outfit).

SMC: What is your one best tip about cooking or entertaining?

Do not be afraid. Have faith that with all of your failures (cooking and entertaining) you will inevitably become a better chef and hostess. Learn from these mishaps, with time and many burnt souffl├ęs later, you will evolve into a wonderful chef and hostess.
wow! thank you so much to the wonderful ladies behind little black apron - there is some wonderful advice there that's sure to make even the most hostess-phobic girl into a born entertainer. and um, if anyone's making that delish maple dijon salmon for new year's, feel free to send an invite my way!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

deal of the day: saks contemporary sale

okay, so i don't have a ton of time to blog this one, but wouldn't feel right leaving you all in the dark. saks just started their women's contemporary sale, and they've made some pretty fabulous markdowns.

remember that nanette lepore cardigan i recommended a while back? it's down to $111 - from $300.

and i just grabbed this very yummy grey cable knit sweater coat by ya-ya...for $110, down from over $400. (it's the one pictured at right - darling, isn't it?)

probably just as well i didn't see this until after i clicked 'ship it', but this darling boatneck marc by marc sweater is down to $68 from $260.

i could keep going, but really, you should be looking for yourself before everything's gone. oh, and use code HOLIDAY7 for free shipping!

what i want today: gold earrings, part two

i'm taking a little hiatus from all of the gifting today to be selfish. still on that gold earring hunt, so i thought i'd share a couple of gorgeous options i've come across recently.

gold studs always feel sort of blah to me, but i love the edginess of these pyramid studs by fallon. they have just enough of that punk vibe to keep them from being too boring, but they're subtle enough that you could easily pull them off at work. plus, scoring jewelry from barneys for $125 is pretty exciting all by itself.

these drop leaf earrings by wasabi - they'd be perfect to add a little something to a holiday outfit, without going all out into chandelier territory. plus, they're an incredibly reasonable $40, which is awfully tough to argue with.

Monday, December 17, 2007

deal of the day: 25% off sitewide at tobi

honestly, the holiday sales are supposed to be after christmas! these pre-holiday discounts are slowly killing me. but, since i have no willpower whatsoever, and i assume my readers are just as challenged as i am in that respect, i'm going to go ahead and let you all know that tobi, one of my very favorite fashion sites, is offering 25% off all full-priced merchandise on its site, through the end of the year.

but okay, for those that are still holiday shopping, let's see if we can put this discount to good use. tobi is such a fabulous site that i think perhaps we can knock off your entire holiday list at once. watch me work...

for the hubs, i'd love to snag him a fabulous leather jacket, and no one does it better than mike & chris. right now, i'm leaning toward the super cool, but casual temple street style, which i know would become an instant favorite in his closet.

for mom, i always love red flower candles...they look gorgeous, they're topped with those fabulous dried flower petals that make for a gorgeous display, they smell divine, and they burn forever. pick up one or two in her favorite scents (i love the blood orange and french lavender). or, if she's more into fashion than fragrance, i think really lush cardigans are always a safe bet for mom. i love this one from eden, which is a great wardrobe staple. if she lives in a colder climate, or is just perpetually freezing (like my mom is), this cardigan coat by lily mcneal would be just perfect.

for a little sister, i think it's tough to go wrong with a funky graphic tee. if she's a rock star wannabe, she'll love the new tees by andy warhol for levis - my pick is this pink moto design. but if her style's more girly, i love this mod peacock tee by topless california, which is a great tunic length and perfect for layering.

for dad, you can up his 'cool factor' with this merino wool sweater by theory. or if he's still using that ancient bottle of old spice aftershave, try giving him this gift set from sharps barber shop to bring his morning routine into the 21st century.

brothers are a tough group to buy for, but i'm thinking i'll pick up a pair of these funky skull socks and a fabulously cool new wallet for my little bro, like maybe this black-and-green "loungemaster" by j.fold - even the name is perfect for him. long as i'm shopping for others, i think i probably deserve a little gift for myself, don't you? so, there's a very decent chance i'll be sneaking some paige denim, this gorgeous swing coat from (who else) lily mcneal, and maybe one of these beautiful italian linen scarves by love quotes. hmm, maybe i'll pick one up for mom too, while i'm at it...

if i can manage to rack up $250 in purchases (which shouldn't be tough), my whole order gets gift-wrapped for free, in tobi's gorgeous signature wrapping. that should leave me plenty of extra time for even more shopping! um...for others, of course.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

shoppingsmycardio gifts: eco-savvy

gift-guide mania continues here at shoppingsmycardio. it seems like everyone's doing the green/eco-chic thing this year. and even though i'm about the least environmentally-friendly person ever (i actually traded in my hybrid for an SUV), i realize that i'm probably in the minority at this point. so, for those friends who are hopelessly devoted to yoga, mass transit, and composting, here are a few gifting ideas that are sure to make them swoon.

if you love the idea of getting a gift that gives back, but those "i made a donation in your name" cards feel a little anti-climactic, pick up one of the fabulously fashionable tees from the lovely folks over at conscience tees. for $30, you can grab a darling gift for her, and $5 of the purchase price goes to the earth-friendly organization of your choice. so, she can wear this darling polar bear with pride, knowing she gave a chunk of change to the world wildlife fund to help save the world.

tote bags are definitely the item du jour for the green girls this year. blame it all on anya hindmarch, though the truth is there are loads of cuter options out there. rather than making the tote the gift, i love the idea of stocking it with a few magazines your friend loves, maybe a new yoga mat, or just a book you read this year that you think everyone should read too. as for which tote to choose, the options are a little overwhelming, but here are a few of my favorites:

* this lunch tote ($24) over at three potato four is so adorable that it makes even me, the queen of eating out, want to brown-bag it.
* this je t'aime brooklyn tote ($12) is darling and cheeky, and the long handles mean it will actually fit over her shoulder.
* the totes over at alena hennessy's site are so gorgeous, it's pretty much impossible for me to choose. but i think i love the milla birds and the mirabel apricot (each, $64) best.

if she's zen at heart, but still perfectly accessorized, this meditation necklace is a gorgeous option. it's a vintage photo, reproduced and cast in resin - and just looking at it makes me peaceful. it'll be a conversation starter anywhere she goes.

or, if your friend is hopelessly devoted to feathering her oh-so-sustainable nest, she's sure to love this yummy flannel throw from unison. anything flannel makes me swoon when the weather's chilly, i'll admit. but throw in that fabulous (not to mention guy-friendly) pattern, and the fact that the cotton's all organic, and this is a gift that's sure to please, whether she bikes to work or secretly dreams of owning a humvee.

Friday, December 14, 2007

shoppingsmycardio gifts: on the road again...

i love having friends that travel...i think that travel-friendly gifts are some of the easiest and best finds out there. here's a list of a few that are sure to make the top of anyone's 'best gift' list this year.

for that person you know who's always jetting off to some new, exotic locale, i love picking up a box of luxe travel guides. these fabulously chic, pocket-size guides put fodor's to shame - they'll give her the very best tips for the top restaurants, spas, shopping, and oh so much more...without boring her with all of the mundane basics she undoubtedly already knows. for a real jetsetter, i love the world grand tour box, which comes with guides for 12 major cities (london, paris, rome...), along with free online updates. it arrives in a gorgeous, black and white box, and you can pick it up for $99. or, for a more personal touch, you can customize a bespoke box of five (for $50) or twelve (for $110) guides for spots you know she'll be visiting in 2008. she'll thank you every time her plane touches down in a new destination.

i absolutely adore all of red flower's products, and this travel set is a perfect way to check out some of their best. it comes with travel sizes of their famous gingergrass bamboo scrub, wild lime silk oil, yuzu mimosa algae wash (are you salivating yet?), and tons more, and they all arrive in this gorgeous roll that will be perfect for her jewelry. best of all, it's regularly $60, but coco's shoppe is having an amazing 40% off sitewide sale until sunday only, so use code lastchance to knock the price on this perfect gift down to a very wallet-friendly $36.

tocca is another line i just can't get enough of - their scents are just amazing. their laundry delicates travel set is a fantastic way to pamper her, while letting her try out all of the amazing fragrances at tocca. the set comes with four bottles of their amazing delicates wash (one in each of their four signature fragrances), and includes a gorgeous lace lingerie bag to keep everything safe and sound. wrap it up at bluemercury for $48.

last but not least, the truth is that as glamorous as a travel-filled life might sound to those of us who don't do it, living out of a suitcase gets give her a little extra comfort with a set of accessories that lets her feel like she's in the lap of luxury, even if her boss stuck her in a horrible best western in suburban tampa. i love this set at acacia ($40), which is made of a bamboo/microfiber blend, so it's sure to be silky soft. the blanket actually has a pocket for her feet, so she won't have to worry about keeing her toes warm on an overseas flight.

and, at the other end of the spectrum is this gorgeous cashmere version by white + warren ($495), which makes some seriously decadent cashmere goods. the set includes a yummy cashmere throw, eye mask, and cashmere slippers that are sure to make her feel at home anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

shoppingsmycardio gifts: so many men, so little time...

i have no idea why, but men are just impossible for me to choose gifts for. every year, i spend at least twice as much time picking out gifts for the men in my life as i do the women. i'm not sure if they're really that tough, or if it's just that venus/mars thing, but i get a little sick of buying the standard cologne, tie or golf paraphernalia. so this year, i'm getting out of the rut.

one thing i know for sure is that the way to a man's heart is undoubtedly through his stomach. enter the custom chip & dip kit from route 11. for just $33, you can choose four bags of chips and two dips, and they'll arrive at his door fresh and ready for devouring in front of the televion during all of those christmas day football games. plus, you can choose crazy, boy-friendly flavors like habanero and dill pickle, or cheesy bacon dip (my hubs is totally drooling right now if he's reading this).

another surefire success is alcohol - i don't think there's a guy in the world that would turn down a six-pack. i love the idea of picking up his favorite spirit, and tying this keychain flask to the bottle...especially since the flask is only $20, leaving you plenty of room to splurge on that 21-year-old glenlivet.

the man bag is a tricky business - you want something functional, and probably semi-professional looking, but it has to be unquestionably masculine. this version by serious sporting goods designer filson is rugged but tailored, incredibly well-designed (think solid brass hardware, double layers of waterproof canvas on the bottom, and leather trim made from the same stuff they use for horse bridles), and will be a great lightweight option, since it's primarily canvas. and, since it's coming from a company that designs hunting and fishing gear, no worries about the "it's too metro" argument.

i love using gift-giving holidays as an excuse to equip the men in my life with things i think they should have. some might call it selfish, but i love it when people buy me things i'd never be able to justify buying myself. this 'bottoms up' hoodie by loomstate is a classic example. loomstate uses the most amazingly soft organic cotton, and this is a piece that will be a weekend staple for him for years to come - but i don't know any guy that would spend $170 on a hoodie, no matter how much time i spend giving them the 'cost per wear' argument. plus, really: wouldn't you rather borrow this than that threadbare fleece pullover he's had since 1983?

or, if he's past the hoodie stage of life, consider a classic cashmere sweater - i can't say enough good things about the cashmere from vince, and this v-neck style is classic enough to work for just about any guy.

watches always feel like a great gift idea, until you get to the counter at the department store, where you're promptly overwhelmed by the options. the truth is, i've tried a few times, and i've never been right yet. but if you have a guy on your list that's on the hip side of square, i think this teak watch by nixon is about as cool as it gets. plus, it's available from our friends at active endeavors, who give shoppingsmycardio readers that lovely 20% discount with code 'cardio', making this watch come in comfortably under $200.

if you're buying for a guy that's more geek than chic, the new ipod nano with video is probably the most obvious choice. i have to admit - they're pretty dang cool. i like the product RED version, but i'm guessing most true blue geeks are going to go for the plain silver model. but if you're looking for something a little more off the beaten path, i love these star wars USB flash drives from urban outfitters. they come packed with wallpaper, film trailers and clips from the movies - and he'll be the coolest guy in the computer lab when he's saving things to a storm trooper.

and if none of this fits the bill, aren't the boys always telling us that the godfather is the greatest movie of all time? even if they're dead wrong, this brand new annotated script is the ultimate guide to the ultimate guy movie. with stills, trivia, behind-the-scenes details plus a full script, he'll be doing his best brando impression well after new year's. pair it with the DVD box set, and this is one gift guaranteed to make you little miss popularity.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

what i want today: canary eelskin clutch

in support of my ongoing fasination with clutches, i had to share this gorgeous eel skin version by lorelei. the sunny yellow color is really fabulous...not as glitzy as gold, but i think that actually adds to the versatility. you can still wear it with any neutral, but the yellow makes it casual enough to wear with jeans, while the exotic skin dresses it up just enough for cocktails. this beauty would make me smile every time i pulled it out of the closet. the size (13"x5") is perfect for use as a day clutch, and the price ($238) is tough to argue with.

but even better, the darling folks over at pink caviar have generously extended a 20% sitewide discount exclusively to shoppingsmycardio readers. just use code cardio20 at checkout, making this gorgeous clutch a steal at $190.

pick it up at pink caviar boutique, rush the shipping, and tote it to all of your holiday parties!

Monday, December 10, 2007

shoppingsmycardio gifts: on the cheap

much as we all love to ooh and aah over the fabulously expensive and extravagant gift options out there, the sad truth is that i'm pretty well broke by the middle of december. so, for those of you who are still struggling to come up with the perfect gift with your less-than-perfect budget, here's a list of ideas that won't set you back more than $30. don't say i never gave you anything good.

for your fashion forward friend, i love this gorgeous scarf by alena hennessy. made of super-soft knit jersey, it's thin enough to layer, but still sure to keep her warm all winter and into the spring. pick it up for $28 from hennessy's website.

if she's more into jewels than jersey, i just can't get enough of this darling little hedgehog necklace from the curiosity shoppe - he's $20, and is sure to make any girl smile.

if she's a paper freak like i am, she'll love this gorgeous set of stationery by british designer cath kidson.
kidson is known for her over-the-top designs that manage somehow to make country into chic. the set includes 30 sheets of paper, mix-and-match envelopes, and a gorgeous gift box...all for $15.

or, if your paper freak friend likes things a little more refined, this letterpress calendar by decoy lab is one of the prettiest i've seen. buy it for $28 at their website, which is definitely worth checking over.

for the right-brained artist in your life, i just adore this little notebook by little otsu. it's divided into three sections: the first is designed for to-do lists, but each has an origami pattern printed on the back, so she has incentive to check off those errands. the second section is made of blank pages waiting for her random sketches...but each page is pre-printed with a frame, so her impromptu artwork has a proper setting. and the third section has a mix of all sorts of different note-taking pages, so she'll never get bored with the same old straight lines. nab it for $14, and shipping's free!

if she's a tea drinker, she'll love this tea-for-one mug from urban outfitters - the two pieces match up to make a gorgeous peacock, and you can nab it for $24. or, if she's more of an afternoon "coffee and snacks" person, i love this cafemug by shinzi katoh. it that comes with a little mini dish that's perfect for packing with your afternoon ration of m&ms. there are a few different designs, but i love the birdcage best - how can you resist something with the word "gazouillement" (chirping, in french) printed on the side? grab it for $18 at three potato four.

good things come in small packages. i think just about every girl out there can use another mini purse to organize her life - i know i could. my favorites these days are vintage-style frame purses, and the best i've found are over at etsy. for well under that $30 mark, you can pick up some really gorgeous options from sellers like oktak, absoluut (who makes hers using vintage fabrics - so cool!), and takae. throw in an accessory, like a cute lip gloss (i love these cocktail lip glosses by not soap, radio) or a mirror, and you have a gift you know will keep on giving all year long. just remember, these are all handmade, one-of-a-kind shop early, and allow a little extra time for shipping from these crafters.

and if none of these ideas work for you, shopbop has a lovely "under $100" list up right now. sure, it's not as good as "under $30," but we can't all be rock stars.

ooh, and please, feel free to comment with any other ideas...i know this time of year i'm always scrambling for fabulous gift options, so share and share alike! after all, it's better to give than to receive. (wait...that's so not the motto we live by here at shoppingsmycardio...)

Friday, December 07, 2007

shoppingsmycardio interviews:'s genius gift-givers

from the first time i stumbled onto violet, it has become my number one go-to for unique gift ideas. so, when founders bonnie cohen and amy barnett offered to chat with us about their best gifting tips and tricks, i jumped at the chance! with the calendar counting down to the 25th a little too quickly for my taste this year, i think you'll find the ideas from these fabulous ladies inspiring, and maybe even a little bit life-saving.

shoppingsmycardio: I adore violet – it’s genius! How did the idea come together? And how did the two of you come together?

Bonnie & Amy: We’ve known each other for many years. When we first met, we discovered that we owned a lot of identical stuff. So right off the bat, we admired each other’s style!

Bonnie has a background in Merchandising and Visual Design and Amy is an Electrical Engineer, so for us, the Web is a natural venue.

SMC: You have such a knack for finding gift ideas that really are off the beaten path. How do you come up with the items on your site? Are you sent ideas, or do you spend your days out shopping for great additions to the site? (and if so, how do I sign up for that gig!?)

Bonnie: I am constantly on the lookout for merchandise, and I source product everywhere I go! There’s lots of amazing stuff out there, but for Violet, I focus on the question, “What makes a great gift?”. Then I try to find things that are really fresh or totally timeless.

SMC: What is your absolute favorite item on the site right now?

Bonnie: I have a 3-way tie for favorite product: the American Honey Flight, the Retread Purse, and the Aviary Desk Set. The American Honey Flight has a gorgeous presentation, and producing it is a Labor of Love. The Retread Purse is “Eco-Couture” - constructed from tire inner tubes, it could be right at home in the front row during Fashion Week. The Aviary Desk Set harkens back to a time when manners and etiquette were revered. I’m a little nostalgic for that era; in this electronic era, I try to "reach out and touch" my friends with paper as much as I can.

SMC: Okay, I’m going to put you guys on the spot now – would you be willing to answer a few “what should I give this person” questions? Around the holidays, I’m always looking for a classic “works for everyone” gift – something to take to cocktail parties, give to clients, etc. It has to be classy and unique, but not too pricey...and I hate giving the standard bottle of wine. What ideas would you have for that?

B&A: the Who’s Wine-ing System. Solves the “Which glass is mine?” problem. Six color-coded tags slip onto glass stems; you can even write names on the tags (they wipe clean with a damp cloth). The tags are stored in a clever cube that fits on the neck of a wine bottle. For $14, it’s a great way to present a bottle of wine.

SMC: I think dads (and men in general) are the toughest to buy for. Either you buy for a hobby (hello, personalized golf tees), or you buy those super-boring traditional boy gifts: ties, cologne, or gadgets. What’s your best no-fail gift idea for men?

B&A: Men are definitely tough. These are our "field goals":
1) The Astronaut Pen. Invented for the Apollo 7 Space mission (engineering requirement: must defy gravity). It is a design classic. Sleek and techie.
2) The Dinobite Bottle Opener. This is equal parts beast and sculpture -- and it opens beer bottles. Genius.
3) The Fantasy Post-it System. Tear Post-It’s to fit any size thought. Also looks handsome and impressive on the desk.

SMC: What are your favorite websites/designers to check out for fabulous new ideas (other than your own, of course!)?

B&A: This is our hot list:
* Mahar Drygoods: Specialty kids merchandise, mainly vintage and artist-crafted.
* Rose and Radish: Unique, well-edited, themed collections. Lots of European designers.
* Charles and Marie: An interesting selection of off-the-grid, high-design products.
* Composition: Modern merchandise (and site design!).
* Papa Stour: Mostly hand crafted, contemporary products from Scotland. Beautiful things, and the photography is so evocative and dreamy.
And -- we Etsy-hunt like crazy! So many cool finds from independent designers all over the globe!

SMC: What is the worst gift you’ve ever received?

Amy: Art. Terrible gift. 99% chance it’s not your “thing”. Your friend expects it to be prominently displayed; you have to manage storing it until they visit.

SMC: And the best?

Bonnie: Probably my very fabulous Best of Flair book that Amy bought me for my birthday one year.

Amy: Thanks, Bonnie!

SMC: What one gift-buying secret do you wish you could teach everyone out there?

B&A: When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with something that’s consumable!
a huge, huge thanks to the ladies over at violet - i know they've given me loads of ideas for gifting to others, not to mention myself (that "best of flair" book is my next must-buy item!).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

what i'm giving today: toasty toes

i know, i know - slippers are such obvious gifts. i would normally totally shy away from something so cliche. but the truth is that i really do love a good pair of cozy slippers...i abhor socks, so when the weather turns chilly, i pretty well live in slippers. they're my winter version of flipflops. plus, let's be honest - raise your hand if you'd die happy just finding a wonderful gift for your friend X right about now...obvious or not. i thought so.

anyway, if you're going to go traditional, i thought i'd share a few pair that i'm coveting this winter.

if the girl on your list is a little more tailored in her tastes, these gorgeous cashmere ballet slippers from banana republic will keep her toes toasty in style. we know i loooove shoes that come in cute little bags, and these do. my favorite is the grey, but the black is subtle enough she might even be able to keep these at her desk for those "i'm going to amputate my foot if i can't take these 4-inch heels off stat" days.

these hot pink shearling slippers from j.crew are making me really happy right now - i love the bright color, which will bring you out of even the worst winter blah. and the shearling is sure to keep your toes toasty. plus, the rubber soles will give you enough traction to make it down the driveway to grab the morning paper without killing yourself...a slipper feature i've overlooked to my own downfall (no pun intended) more than once. at $60 this is a completely do-able gift option for any girl on your list.

oh, and if you can find other gift options to pick up while you're there (i love their enamel bangles this fall, and the gorgeous shearling gloves that would be a perfect match for those slippers), j.crew is offering 20% off purchases of $175 or more, but only through thursday, 12/6 - use code SHHH to cash in.

if you're looking for something really exceptional in the slipper department, this burberry version is a no-brainer. sure, they're $150, but again, they have that cute little pouch! plus, they're going to go with darn near anything, and they'll be cute year-round.