Jan 29, 2015

A Lumbersexual Valentine | Gifts for your Awesomely Rugged Man

I remember how hard I laughed when I first heard the term lumbersexual. It was described to me as the opposite of metro-sexual. After I stopped laughing, I looked over at my husband who happened to be clad in flannel, stroking his beard, and drinking scotch. Apparently, I am married to a lumbersexual. And I like it. I had always just called him a Washingtonian, but we'll jump on the bandwagon and use the lumbersexual label. I even got a flannel shirt and a puffer vest this year in solidarity. Our two year old hasn't quite sprouted his first beard, but I'm sure that isn't too far off with these oh so manly genes in the mix. He already calls all flannel shirts 'Daddy Shirts' so he's on board.

If you are reading this post, you have probably found yourself also romantically tied to a manly man. Kudos. Seriously, they're great. But let's be honest, sometimes it can be challenging to pick out a gift awesome enough to impress. With the help of my own personal lumbersexual gift list curator (aka the hubs), I've come up with a list sure to please.

McAdams Co Wooden Tie Bar. For those infrequent occasions when your man has to be fancy, he can take a bit of the outdoors with him.

Kitsbow Flannel. Not your average flannel shirt. From a mountain bike company, surprisingly, these sexy shirts are hand sewn in San Francisco. I can't get enough of the heather gray one. Mmmmm.

Whiskey Ink & Lace Beard shampoobalm, and oil. No Duck Dynasty beards allowed. That sucker has to be well groomed if it is coming near this face. I was skeptical of three whole products dedicated to the beard at first, but I've been convinced. The shampoo leaves it soft without drying it out; while the balm and the oil moisturize the skin, soften the whiskers, and smell amazing. My husband's scent of choice was inspired by whisky. Surprise surprise.

Which brings us to whisky. Obviously. Mostly, he drinks Scotch, claiming his Scottish heritage, but he's admitted to really liking this Texas Whisky and I'm undeniably partial to anything from my homeland.

Icebreaker Flannel. Following our backpacking trip to New Zealand, my husband has been on a mission to wear as much wool as possible. Thankfully, Icebreaker makes that lightweight and stylish. This Icebreaker flannel is 100% merino wool and the black and white plaid has just enough modern style.

Because there must always be coffee while in the woods...good coffee. This snow peak titanium french press is brilliant. I suggest getting a his and hers set with a card that says you want to go camping. Instant awesome points (especially if you mean it).

Poler stuff camera cooler. Designed in Portland (where they invented lumbersexual), this bag is made to function as either a camera case or a cooler. That is just awesome. And it gets bonus points for style.

Saddleback Duffle Bag. With a 100 year warranty and the slogan "They'll fight over it when your dead," this bag absolutely qualifies as manly luggage. And why not throw in a belt while you're at it.

Jack Spade Dopp Kit. He's got to have somewhere to put all those fancy beard products while traveling. This travel case is clean, simple, and even has a subtle plaid on the lining.

Victoraxe.com Manitou 13" half hatchet. This is where the 'lumber' part of lumbersexual comes in. Apparently, all men need a great hatchet. I used to question my husband about purchases like this until that one time he almost got eaten by a mountain lion. Now I just pass him the catalogue when it comes in the mail.

Cyclelogical Shirt. It is a buffalo. Riding a bicycle. I'm not sure there is much more to explain here. My husband happens to be an avid cyclist so this shirt has become a regular part of the rotation. I have to say I vastly prefer this to his plaid flannel bike jersey which at 6'5" sort of makes him look like Paul Bunyan on a bike.

And while we are on the topic of buffalo...any gift list such as this would not be complete without at least one smoked meat. This Buffalo Jerky can be ordered from Woody's Smokehouse in Centerville, TX (aka the Jerky Capital of the World). While I will never fully understand the obsession with dried meat, I'm happy to share a bit of my home state 'heritage'.

And before I give my next recommendation I feel I need to confess that I once made fun of puffer vests. Perhaps it was the burnt orange and brown one my husband had when we met, or maybe it was because I come from TX and people just don't need such things there, but I never quite understood their utility or style until recently. I got my first puffer for Christmas and I fully admit to being hooked. I have been shown the error of my ways. Thankfully, my husband now has the patagonia down sweater vest, which is definitely an improvement over his old model. I also have my eye on this beauty from Icebreaker for the future (the vest, not the model).

My final recommendation is to bring his love of outdoors into your home. Etsy has a ton of creative art that looks great and will make him smile. My husband is probably equal parts lumberjack, cyclist, and engineer, so this print of the patent for the hiking backpack from 1964 seemed particularly appropriate. Another great option is this Seek Adventure pillow also available on Etsy.

I hope you have found some inspiration here for what to gift your personal lumberjack. And before I leave you, I have one last tip. If you really want to make him happy, get yourself a flannel shirt and go on an adventure. Trust me. My husband's first gift to me consisted of a headlamp, wool socks, and a map of Yosemite. It might not seem so on the surface, but this is perhaps one of the sweetest and most thoughtful gifts he has ever given me - an invitation to share in his adventures.

Jan 16, 2015

A Milk and Cookies Engagement Party

I was thrilled when my brother-in-law first told us he was purchasing a ring! It isn't every day you add a sister-in-law to the mix, especially one that you really like! I know I take it for granted that I currently have three sisters-in-law and am blessed to call them all friends. Now I look forward to adding one more awesome lady to the family. Kyle, thanks for picking a good one! We had high expectations and you delivered. True to my love of planning parties, I decided that I wanted to throw the happy couple an engagement party. With the abundance of celebrations I threw last year - seriously, people, stop having babies - I figured I needed to go super low-key for the engagement party. I almost succeeded in that, but my excitement got the better of me and I added a little DIY fun to make it a little more personal and special. 

The idea for this party started with the food, oddly enough. I adored the idea of throwing a 'cookies & milk' party. Who doesn't love a really great cookie and a cold glass of milk? Simple, fun, and meant to encourage a playful and relaxed vibe. No one could take themselves too seriously with a milk mustache or licking chocolate off their fingers. (Kind of like that time I ate string cheese in front of billionaires...but that is a different story.) 

The second inspiration for the party design was the engagement gift I had planned for the happy couple. It has become somewhat of a tradition that I  give every couple in our family burlap monogram art commemorating the year of their marriage. A simple handmade gift that also happens to work perfectly as a party decoration. 

The other decorations grew from there. I added some rustic elements (natural wood, burlap), simple white flowers, patterned straws in mason jar sippers, a hand-drawn 'calligraphy' table runner, and topped it off with a few chalkboard details. I can't quite put my finger on a name for the style of this party. A throw-back to elementary school days, yet all grown up. 

We had six types of cookies in all: browned butter chocolate chip (w/ and w/out nutella), browned butter snickerdoodles (w/ and w/out caramel), chocolate crinkle, and peanut butter. To add variety to the cookie display I pulled out my cake stands, cookie stands, pie plates, and even a wood slice to use as serving dishes. My husband was a great sport and rigged up a way to hang my kitchen menu chalkboard from a tree to provide the 'Cookie Bar' sign.

The milk table turned out just as cute. White milk, chocolate milk, glass-bottled Coke (the yummy Mexican kind), and water rounded out the beverage options.

I was a little hesitant at first to put milk in large drink dispensers outside. Even with the table in the shade I wanted a little extra 'insurance' against the milk going warm and gross. The solution was to put reusable Plastic Ice Cubes into each drink dispenser. It kept the milk perfectly cool the entire length of the party and didn't dilute the drink like normal ice cubes. 

{A quick digression on drink dispensers here: Drink dispensers seem to be ever so popular right now and I, for one, love them. However, there are good ones and there are bad ones. The dispenser holding the white milk is a fantastic one. The dispenser holding the chocolate milk is the 'wanna be' dispenser and it was not awesome. I actually disliked it so much I returned it to the store the next day. There are two main things I look for in a dispenser - quality of the spigot and airflow during dispensing. For example, my nice dispenser (from Pottery Barn) has a metal spigot whereas the cheap dispenser (from World Market) has a plastic one that almost feels like it would snap off from normal use. The air flow is also important because it impacts how well the liquid flows out of the dispenser; this is how you can tell if the dispenser is well designed. The Pottery Barn dispenser has a teeny tiny hole in the lid (barely visible) that allows enough air to enter the dispenser so that you can keep the metal lid on and looking pretty during the party. To use the World Market dispenser you have to unlatch and open the lid slightly to get any flow. I found this really frustrating so I packed that sucker up and took it back. They were great about taking the return so no hard feelings with the store. And for Christmas one of my awesome sisters-in-law (and I guess my brother, too) got me the smaller version of my Pottery Barn dispenser (yay!).}

Ok, now back to the party...

For cups, I debuted the Mason Jar Sippers purchased with a 'thank you' gift card from planning the safari themed baby shower last year. I bought these as a set, but you can also turn regular mason jars into drinks with mason jar daisy straw lids.

The Cokes kept cool in a galvanized metal drink tub I purchased years ago for my wedding.

In addition to the large 'Cookie Bar' chalkboard, we had a few other chalkboard touches. The banners were actually 'faux' chalkboard, which is just a fancy way to say that I cut black cardstock paper into pennants and then wrote on them using my son's white sidewalk chalk. You have to be careful not to smudge it before the party, but it works great! The cookie labels were also created using black paper and a chalk marker. My drink dispenser tags were a gift made by my husband (he's a keeper!) and are pretty much a staple at all my parties.  

The most time-consuming DIY party decoration ended up being the table runner. People seemed quite surprised I had made it, which I generally take as a compliment. Unless it is followed by the phrase 'oh how interesting'. Interesting is always a bad sign when it comes to DIY. Armed with kraft postal wrapping paper, a sharpie, and a plastic trash bag, I hand wrote 'love' across the entire length of the runner, probably while watching Project Runway. After the first pass, I went back and thickened up the down strokes of the letters to give the impression that it was calligraphy. The plastic bag was placed under the kraft paper to prevent bleeding onto my carpet. I made a similar kraft paper table runner for a winter baby shower a while back. {A little money saving tip - don't buy kraft wrapping paper in the wrapping paper section, buy it in the postal supply section. For example, this kraft postal wrapping paper is less than 6 dollars for 30 feet. I use it for gift wrap mostly, but it made a gorgeous table runner. }

I couldn't bear to get rid of this paper after the party so it is currently sitting in my garage waiting to be used as gift wrap. See what a great background the runner provides for the setup! And a perfect reminder of what the party is all about...cookies, I mean, love!

And now for my favorite part of the party - the dessert plates! I generally get a little too excited about party supplies, so when partypail.com offered to let me try some of their products (no strings attached) I may or may not have flipped out (in a good way). You know that giddy feeling when you have a party idea in your head and then you find something that fits the picture in your head perfectly? Hmm, just me? Well, it was love at first sight with these chalkboard Mr and Mrs Plates from partypail. Like I said, I get a wee bit excited about party supplies (and office supplies...maybe supplies in general?) It turns out it is a little difficult to decorate a party in all black and white and have it look festive. The touch of color on the plates and the black and white striped straws helped keep it playful instead of boring.

Mmmmm...now I want a cookie.

And what kind of party would it be without flowers? I have been mildly obsessed with white hydrangea this year. This bunch I bought at Trader Joe's lasted for two weeks!  One large arrangement was the sole decoration on my (we'll call it rustic) picnic table. And a few smaller bunches were placed in mason jars on the Cookie Bar for an understated fancy.

Despite my intense love of cookies, I did encourage the party guests to take a few home for the road. Kraft paper bags and black heart stickers (both from kraft&color on etsy) served as favor bags. A chalk marker was used to add a 'K+N' or 'love' to the stickers. You can also find the DIY instructions here for the tree slice chalkboard.   

In an attempt to distract from the state of my drought-ridden California yard, I put a few clusters of balloons around the setting. Little did I know that the balloons would also serve as entertainment for the toddlers. Bonus! 

As always, what really makes a party successful is the people. There were no games, no activities, just mingling and eating cookies. A perfect example of what I have come to love most about throwing parties - providing a fun setting to celebrate life and enjoy each other's company. Of the approximately 50 guests, we had teeny babies, college students, grandparents, and everything in between. It was a beautiful picture of what it is like to live in a community in the true sense of the word, and gives me great encouragement that the newlyweds will be supported by people in all life stages.    

Party Supply Sources: 
plates and straws >> partypail.com {Note - partypail no longer has a website so links are updated to amazon}
favor bags and stickers >> Kraft&Color on etsy.com
table runner >> kraft postal wrapping paper and sharpie on amazon
galvanized tub >> World Market
the good drink dispenser >> Pottery Barn
cake plates, pie plate, and tiered server >> Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma, and Sur la Table
mason jars >> OSH
balloons and plastic white table cloth >> local party store
wood slices for cookie tray and DIY chalkboard >> Michaels
mason jar daisy straw lids >> amazon
Plastic Ice Cubes >> amazon
water pitcher >> Crate & Barrel

{All of the party supplies used in this party were purchased by me with the exception of the partypail plates and straws. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.}