Great Gifts Under $40

My favorite time of year is Christmas. Sure, the eggnog is great, the lights are beautiful and there is something special about afternoon naps with carols playing in the background, but I love searching for the perfect gift for friends and family. I thought I might put together a quick look at some of my favorite go to gifts for under $40.

 

  1. 9oz Swell Bottle in Peridot // Small enough to it into almost any purse, cute and crazy convenient, this is the ultimate gift for the girl on the go.

  2. Popcorn Lip Scrub from LUSH // Salty and sweet is the best combination out there and this lip scrub encompasses all of it. It’s so tasty that you may forget to notice how well it works!

  3. Custom Banner from Hanging with Lucy // This is such a cute way to tell someone you love them, miss them, wish them a Merry Christmas or really . . . whatever you want! Jess does an incredible job making adorable felt banners and will work with you on whatever you want written on them. Just think of the possibilities! She goes above and beyond to make it perfect and right now, if you use the coupon code CHRISTMASWITHLAURA checkout, you’ll get 10% off through the end of January.

  4. Paradise Gardens 2017 Wall Calendar from Paper Source // Paper Source has an excellent collection of calendars that would double as wall art if you don’t look closely. It’s a great grab for the friend who is always organized!

  5. Reversible Dainty Earrings by Kate Spade // Ever want to buy a friend jewelry but get lost second guessing your decisions? This is the solution. A beautiful and simple pair of earrings that can be worn either way. It fits all styles and looks good with pretty much anything making it a winner.

  6. Oh Joy! Book // What an overall perfect book. With super cute tutorials and crafting ideas, it feels like the best kind of Pinterest board come to life. It also makes a great coffee table book in that it’s big, beautifully laid out and overall, such a fun book to flip through.

  7. Clear Rosa Case by Rifle Paper Co. // Phones may change, but we still need cute cases to make them better. Enough said.

  8. Sugar Lip Treatment // I can’t say enough about this. I recently ditched almost all of my lipstick in favor of a few of these. My absolute favorite is the Rose (pictured). It’s pink but sheer (and that’s showing up as sheer on my very fair skin). It’s just enough color to add on for a quick run to the store, an early class or even a night out. An added bonus is that it has SPF 15 so it’s great for your lips all year long.

  9. Soy Nail Polish Remover from Ella + Mila // I can’t get enough of this polish remover and recommend it to pretty much everyone I see wearing nail polish. If you do your nails often, you know how acetone dries out your nails and makes your hands feel all kinds of yucky. This remover is oil based and includes the best kind of ingredients that leave your nails and cuticles actually feeling better than before. If you’ve got a friend who loves doing her nails, do her a favor and pick this up for her.

  10. Fake’n Bake Candle // Sometimes, candles feel like a not so personal gift. This candle is hilarious and perfect for that friend who always burns the cookies and laugh it off.

  1. Personalized Plaid Scarf by Land’s End // This scarf is part of the Cashtouch collection which means it is insanely soft. Sometimes scarves don’t seem like the obvious gift for the guy in your life, but even the grizzliest of men can’t deny how good it feels to be wrapped in a super soft scarf while you’re out braving the elements.

  2. Oxford Colorblock Phone Case by Jack Spade // This classic colorblocking never goes out of style. Show him you care about both him and his phone.

  3. The Mac + Cheese Cookbook // Because every guy should know how to make one killer dish. Why not make it macaroni and cheese?

  4. Old Fashioned Carry-On Cocktail Kit from J.Crew // Traveling for the holidays? What a perfect gift to help your buddy get through the flight and all the stress that goes along with traveling, holidays and visiting the family. It comes with everything you could need (including a recipe card and coaster). All you need to do is provide the hard stuff.

  5. Stranger Things T-Shirt // When you’re not in the upside down, fan-made shirts that are well done can be hard to come by. This one is fantastic and a great gift for anyone still wondering about Barb.

  6. New Mac Candle from Twelve South // Smells just like the real thing. Clever candles never go out of style.

  7. Keysmart // Kyle got this as a groomsmen gift two years ago and still uses it everyday. It may not be for every guy, but it holds up well and is a fun gadget for someone who needs some key organization.

  8. Kalamazoo by LUSH // I’m a huge fan of LUSH as a company and as an excellent place to find great gifts. Great skin is always in style and LUSH delivers just that, not to mention this contains apricot kernel oil which helps condition, making prickly beards softer and stronger.

  9. Chapter Travel Kit by Herschel Supply Co. // Herschel Supply Co. is a brand I love that makes all kind of bags and accessories. Kyle and I both have laptop sleeves by them and swear by them. This may or may not end up under our own tree so that Kyle can keep his toiletries in more than just a giant pocket for future travels.

  10. Sneakers from H&M // I love the masculine contrast on these. There’s always room for one more pair of shoes, right?

5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Marriage

One of the questions we get asked the most often is “when did you know he/she was the one?” Usually people are either super moved or pretty let down with our answer, which is “we didn’t.” Both of us agree that life is a risk, love is a risk and marriage is a risk. There was no gleaming moment when we looked at each other and just knew that it would all work out. We both really loved each other and could see successfully doing life together. Five years later and we still love life together!

When we went out for dinner on our anniversary, we talked about our highs, our lows, our life changing decisions, and all of the craziness that we’ve walked through. We’ve been through a lot and while I recognize that I’m no pro in this whole marriage thing, I thought I would share some of my takeaways from the past few years.

 

1)   Marriage is designed to make you grow.

Marriage is designed to be a blast, and being married to someone just like me would be a total snore! Over time, we’ve learned that it’s way more common than we expected to see “complete opposite couples.” I remember when Kyle and I announced we were dating; we were met with multiple “is this a joke” responses (talk about encouraging, right?). Kyle’s mind works in ways mine doesn’t (and wont ever) and because of that, he challenges me to see things differently on a daily basis. A few years ago, I remember him looking at me out of nowhere and asking, “do you ever wonder how calendars were created?” – uh no. Like, never. That thought had never entered my mind and almost immediately jumped right back out. I love to use that example because, if you are around Kyle, you’re probably familiar with these kind of random thoughts that just pop into his head. He thinks about things I don’t give a second glance to, he questions things I don’t, and wants to learn things I’ve never even considered an option. It’s these differences that challenge me to become not only a better person, but also a better version myself, and I try to do the same for him. That’s essentially marriage in a nutshell. (PSA: if you’re looking for a partner and you’ve got a list of their ideal interests, quirks and possibly an entire personality, you may want to consider scrapping that list and keeping your eyes peeled for the opposite.) When people say something along the lines of their partner needing to be their best friend first, I roll my eyes so hard. My best friend is my cheerleader; she’s always in my corner, tells me pretty much everything I do is awesome, she’ll back me up no matter what and she'll let me rant/cry for as long as I need. My husband tells me when I’m wrong, he tells me how to make it better and is impressed with me only when I’ve done something worthy of being impressive. He sees my potential and will tell me when I’m shrugging it off. He constantly calls out the best in me and challenges me to grow in ways I never expected.

 

2)   “Outserve One Another”

This is one of our favorite little sayings that actually help us out a lot, no matter how cliché it might seem. You really don’t realize how selfish you are until you’re in a serious relationship. Learning how to do things for each other is hard. Not the big things where you’re clearly supporting your spouse, but the mundane, day-to-day things. Things like getting a refill without a “are your legs broken,” or giving your spouse the last piece of cake (or at least splitting it) can sometimes go a long way. Marriage is really all about learning how to put someone before you and building that relationship. Starting each day with the mindset that you’re going to do everything in your power to help make life a little more enjoyable, easier and more fun, not only allows you to practice selflessness, but also helps you build an important level of trust. When Kyle makes a big decision, I wholeheartedly trust that he has my best interest at heart. Likewise, if I make a decision, he can trust that I am thinking of him. “Outserving one another” isn’t easy, and there are definitely days where we don’t get it right. Learning how to serve anyone other than yourself is a process, and sometimes it’s a messy one, but when you get it right, it’s incredibly rewarding.

 

3)   Conflict is hard. Hyperbolic language makes it harder.

Just steer clear! Absolutes like “all, never, always, ever” are trouble and usually derail the conversation and likely turn what was a simple chat into a heated argument. Examples include “you never listen,” “you always do this,” and “dumbest thing ever.” If you’re talking to your spouse about anything remotely serious, drop any exaggerated words from your vocabulary. Tensions are high, and all it takes is one casual drop of “this always happens” to snowball it into an all night brawl.

It should also be noted that you can’t shirttail this one by throwing in “you make me feel like ________ “ and then inserting one of these key snowball phrases/words. Just because you say it makes you feel like that doesn’t make it any less hurtful.

Here is a quick list of words to stay away from:

  •       Constantly
  •       Always
  •       Never
  •       Ever/Every
  •       None/All
  •       Impossible

 

4)   Finding your Identity is Important

This goes for both you as an individual and you as a couple. About a year after we moved to Vancouver, suddenly, we were forced to think about who we really were. What were our interests outside of school, outside of a job and outside of our marriage? We were forced to take a step back to analyze who we were and found ourselves questioning political beliefs, spiritual beliefs and essentially our outlooks on life. We also had to think about what our passions were as well as what we just weren’t into. For example, Kyle learned that he likes coffee . . . as in, really likes coffee. He enjoys learning about the brewing techniques, how the country of origin affects its flavor and other details that many people tend to gloss over. I was able to find myself as well and became so confident in my individuality that I started rocking the pink hair I had been talking about for (no joke) three years. We had taken all of the personality tests and knew what they all had to say about us, but to dive deep within ourselves and find out what dreams, beliefs, interests and passions we both had was a totally different process. For us, it took us going to a place where we knew no one and becoming accustomed to a lifestyle we had never known. It’s a different process for everyone but when you know who you are and you’re able to confidentially embrace it, you’ll find yourself freer and more secure in yourself and consequently, your marriage.

 

5) Communication is Key

Ok, this sounds crazy cliché but it’s the truth. Sure, you definitely need to be communicating about big decisions like where to live, whether or not to take or quit a job, and children, but I am really talking more about the day-to-day stuff. I heard once that a healthy relationship has 3 little “tufts” every week and 1 bigger argument a month. Seems about right. But how do you make it through the couple little “conversations” as we call them without them blowing up? Over-communicate. It sometimes feels super awkward to bring up something small, but that’s just part of building a life with someone. You're no longer living with just a roommate where you can just passively interact for who knows how long. We’ve been shown in tv/film that something as small as maybe taking tone, some snark that was taken a little too far, or even just an unfortunate phrasing is something that will usually result in a big blowup. That’s just not true. Bringing up small things that annoy you when you’re calm (emphasis on being calm) has been super important for us. It allows you both to air out something in a mature way. Plus, you don’t have to worry about it all building up and then jumping into a “you always do this” mindset. Most of the time, the other person didn’t even realize that they were even doing something that could be considered offensive. Just as important and definitely worth noting is being open to these conversations and not shutting them or your partner down. Choosing not to talk is still communicating; it’s just not what you want to be saying.

 

So there it is. It may not be flashy, it may not be fun and heck, it may not even be useful to you, but those are the top tips I’ve learned in the past 5 years. Now that we have a baby, who knows what’s to come!

Ikea Hacked Patchwork Dresser

A few years ago I fell in love with West Elm's Patchwork Collection. Eventually we got a hold of two nightstands, but our apartment in Vancouver didn't have enough room for the dresser, so we put it off. Have you seen these nightstands?! How can you not fall in love with that design?

After our big move back to the US, we figured it would be the perfect time to finally get the dresser of my dreams to match the set. So, I start checking out the price online and I find out that it's been discontinued. Cue the heartbreak. Next step, call the nearest store (Dallas) to get a quote on any that they may have in stock or try to track down one nearby me and get a quote for shipping. Well, that turned out to be a bust too because they didn't have any of the patchwork woodgrain but they did have simple white . . . for a sale price of around $1200. 

 Cue Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." 

Cue Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." 

Since we made the decision not to bring in any Canadian dollars because of the super awful conversation rate, we were pretty much stuck. 

Until I ran across PANYL. They make a wide variety of contact paper (for lack of a better description) that are custom cut to certain IKEA product dimensions. After going through their Instagram and seeing a couple bang on options to recreate this exact dresser, I figured it was worth a try.  

We decided to go with the Malm Dresser. If you're familiar with IKEA, you know this dresser. It's the run of the mill, most boring dresser ever. Seriously, it's almost an eyesore of how bland it is. Just look at this. But, for just over $150 and a great amount of storage space, we sucked it up and made it part of our bedroom collection.

Then, we ordered the PANYL samples. They came within the week and we were pleasantly surprised. It's definitely worth ordering the samples, because the woodgrain options look pretty differently from the online site than in real life. Also, we were impressed with the texture of the woodgrain samples. It sold us on the whole thing even more knowing it wasn't going to just be a crappy sticker and that it would actually look and feel nice. 

We were able to design the dresser online and ordered the strips that day. It blew our mind that they came in just a couple days later.

Next step was the handles. I had a rough experience with some wind and spray paint (I am apparently still getting used to the fact that the wind here is significantly stronger than what we experienced in Vancouver), and had to find new and cheap handles that didn't require spray paint. I actually thought it was going to be a huge issue and hold off the project for another few weeks when I ran across these brass handles on Amazon for a whoppin' $1.12 per handle. I ordered 6 of them and fully expected them to be super crappy. Maybe use them until we find the handles of our dreams and then replace them. Turns out, they looked surprisingly good, especially for about $7 total. 

Next step was drilling the holes, then installing the PANYL strips. We ordered 5 woodgrain and one color option. I wanted to include a dark grey in it and was really pleased with their color sections. Our nightstands have a dark grey wood on it that matched the shade perfectly. The woodgrain strips were a piece of cake to install. Definitely a two person job, but not bad at all. It wasn't until we got to the grey strip that it became an ordeal. I'm not sure if it's like that with all of the PANYL color options, but it was not nearly as easy as the woodgrains were. 

Here's the final product! There were a couple bumps along the way, which is expected since we're pretty new to DIY projects. But, the entire project cost us well under $300 in comparison to the $1200 West Elm dresser. Plus, we are trying to remind ourselves that we're about to have a kid who will probably write all over, spill stuff, and stick play dough to every piece of furniture that we own. Maybe it's ok that we chose the cheaper route this time. 

Overall, we love the piece! It adds a lot to the very blank space. If I was doing the nursery in a woodland themed, this would be perfect on the Hemnes dresser that we have. I would totally use PANYL again. I'm more inclined to do the wood grained strips just because they were so much easier than the color strip that we applied. Regardless of the extra work, the savings payed off. 

Here is a list of the colors we used.

Top Left: Teak

Top Right: Rosewood

Middle Left: Pale Oak

Middle Right: Teak

Bottom Left: Rosewood

Bottom Right: Slate

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Baby Shower

Over the weekend, we headed to Northwest Arkansas for our first baby shower. My mom graciously held it for us in her home and flew my sister in from DC for the event! It had been a while since we had been back there and even longer since we had seen some of our friends in town. It was the perfect excuse to reconnect with some friends that we missed while simultaneously celebrating little Lape

Kyle and I are overwhelmed with thanks for all of the things we walked away with. Maybe we can blame it on hormones, but it really chokes me up to know how loved our little one already is and what a great life he already has awaiting him out here in the world. We're so excited for him to arrive and so thankful that those around us are too! 


 

We're not a family that's really into shower games. We didn't have any at my wedding shower so it felt appropriate not to have any for this shower. Plus, there's something so refreshing about coming to a shower without having to taste test baby food or pick out the melted candy bars that look like poop. No thanks. Let's just eat, drink and open some gifts.

Afterwards, we broke out the antique crystal (it should be noted I've never in my life seen anyone drink from them.) and toasted to our newest edition and throwing a successful baby shower. Here's to you Little Lape! 

 

* Cake is from our favorite local bakery, Shelby Lynn's Cake Shoppe

* Place card holders from Original Animal Magnet

* Thank You cookies from Anna Lees Cookies

The Lapes are Heading to DFW!

Big news! 

One of the first big decisions as parents and thinking of another person other than ourselves, we are making the decision to move to DFW before the baby is born. This may seem like a pretty crazy decision, but we feel it makes the most sense. 

We absolutely love Vancouver and if it were just Kyle and I, it would be our forever home. However, when we take into consideration family, the relationship our son will have with his grandparents and extended family plus the impracticality of the Vancouver housing market, we feel very at peace with the decision to be closer. 

So, expect us to be rolling into Fort Worth before the New Year!

Alaskan Cruise

Oh my goodness we've had such a great time over the past couple weeks! We took a family vacation of sorts and hopped on an Alaskan cruise that took off from just down the street in Vancouver! We had done so much research on what to pack and on every list was a huge amount of rain gear. So, we packed it all and prepped for the worst. Turned out that we had the most incredible weather around every turn! Here are some highlights! 

Anniversary Staycation

We had an entire weekend of celebration for our four year anniversary! It started with dinner at one of my favorite whole in the wall restaurants, Bin 941 on Davie St. On our way home, we stopped to walk through our neighborhood and just take in and admire where we live.

The next day started with a fun walk through Stanley Park and up to the TeaHouse Restaurant for brunch before heading to the Vancouver Aquarium. 


The West End is the Best End

When we visited Vancouver, a little less than a year before we would actually move here, Kyle and I both fell in love with the West End. I remember sitting on a log on English Bay beach, looking around and taking it all in, imagining a life where this was the norm. Our first year in Vancouver we lived in the heart of downtown and, although I am so happy we got to experience the high rise, floor-to-ceiling window lifestyle, it wasn't for us. But the city was. Now we are in the West End and couldn't feel more at home. 

The West End really is the Best End.

Lynn Canyon Hike

Earlier in the week, I asked that we not nap through another Sunday and try to do something out of the norm for us. Well, this just may end up being the norm because it was so beautiful, easy to access and free. We hopped on a bus with a couple friends and 15/20 minutes later we jumped onto the trail for Lynn Canyon. The trail is stunning and isn't difficult at all. Perfect for people like us who aren't looking for an intense workout but trying to be more active. Not to mention the suspension bridge is a fun part of it all. It's a beautiful valley and we can't wait to be back! 

Click on the photo to check out the trail! 

Free Warhol Exhibit

Sometimes I have to sit back and just be content living in a place that has this kind of free stuff to do. Yep. No big deal, just an exhibit featuring 80 original Warhol pieces. It was the perfect place to fit in with my bright hair. The exhibit runs through most of March in Yaletown. 


Hot Chocolate Festival

If you've been following along on my instagram, you are aware that there is a hot chocolate festival going on in Vancouver. It's everything you could imagine and it is running through Valentine's Day. It's definitely not the best thing for my weight loss, but it's a great excuse to get friends out to talk and catch up. Plus, it's soooo tasty! I've listed below the hot chocolates that we tasted and will be updating it as the festival is happening. Click on the picture to see the next one.

"Flu Shot from Mink Chocolates: is Baileys infused warm white chocolate ganache served in a large syringe and comes with an individually wrapped throat lozenge. 

"Don't Bug Me" from Mink Chocolates:  is coconut milk and 38% milk hot chocolate garnished with free-range dried crickets. It's served with a 72% mini dark chocolate square.

"This is Nuts" from Thomas Haas: chocolate (55% cocoa) infused with caramelized hazelnut & almond butter. Served with our “haaselnut”cream and financier sandwich.

"Madagascar" from ThierryThe base of this hot chocolate is 68% small plantation Ampamakia chocolate by Valrhona. 

"Tahitian Dream" from Bel Cafe32% Valrhona Dulcey chocolate. (Dulcey is a white chocolate in which the milk solids have been caramelized, giving the chocolate a tan color and toasted milky caramel notes.) Served with dulcey-dipped coconut marshmallow and Tahitian vanilla bean shortbread.

"Homemade Oreo Hot Chocolate" from Butter Baked Goods: A dark chocolate hot chocolate with vanilla bean whipped cream and homemade oreo cookie crumbs on top. Paired with a homemade Oreo cookie (which was truly the breakout star of this one).

"Earl Goes Boom" from Bella GelateriaWhite hot chocolate steeped in Mighty Leaf Earl Grey Tea and locally grown lavender from Full Bloom Farms. Served with a vanilla gBAR (gelato cookie bar).

The "Rainforest" from Bel Cafe: 64% Valrhona Tainori chocolate. (Tainori is a dark chocolate of single origin from the Dominican Republic. On the palate, this chocolate gives notes of exotic yellow dried fruits.) Served with aerated mango, brazil and almond florentine.

"The Lumberjack" from 49th Parallel Coffee + Lucky's DonutsSpicy dark hot chocolate.
Served with maple marshmallow and chocolate covered wafer logs.

"The Nanaimo Bar" from 49th Parallel Coffee + Lucky's Donuts: A 72% dark chocolate paired with butter icing sweetened milk and topped with a coconut whipped cream. Served with a doughnut-shaped financier.

The "Sizzling Space" from Diva at the Met: spice and herbal blend of chili pepper, star anise, cardamon, orange zest, cloves, cinnammon, hibiscus and rose hips - all brewed slowly to form an herbal tea, then mixed with Barry Callebaut cocoa and Valrhona chocolate. Topped with crushed rose hips to bring out some texture, resulting in a mildly spicy, herbal hot chocolate infusion. Served with a Raspberry Tea Cake. (not pictured)

The "Adults Only" from Diva at the Met: A rich, but not too sweet mixture of Barry Callebaut cocoa and Valrhona chocolate is mixed, heated, and placed in its serving vessel. Atop the vessel, is placed a flat chocolate lid, complete with a chocolate Bailey's ball. After about 30 seconds, the lid melts and the entire lid falls into the hot chocolate. Stir the mixture together to enjoy an 'Adults Only' hot chocolate. Served with a Matcha Green Tea Cake.

It's hard to give reviews on hot chocolate because I recognize that everyone has different tastes and expects different things from a good cup of hot cocoa. I want my hot cocoa to be thick and creamy and not have to rely on a paired treat to bring out the flavor. 

My favorite was the Tahitian Dream from Bel Cafe. I thought it was the perfect consistency and flavor to be enjoyed on its own. It was one of the few that I was able to finish without feeling a massive sugar rush.

My least favorite was the Earl Goes Boom from Bella. I love earl grey and thought this would be an easy hit. But, I was disappointed with the texture and thickness. It really felt like I was just having an earl grey latte. I drank it fast, without being able to sit back and enjoy it because I kept searching for more flavor. 

Worth mentioning are the Sizzling Spice from Diva which stretched my pallet in a very sophisticated way that didn't feel gimmicky. I was wary of the Sizzling Spice because the "chill pepper" were used in the description. Kyle ordered it and as it turned out, I loved it. It came with a mall vial of spices that you added into the chocolate. The Sizzling Spice paired unexpected and untraditional ingredients together to create something truly great. 

The richest hot chocolate I tried would be a close tie between the Madagascar from Thierry and This is Nuts from Thomas Haas. It took me a couple hours to fully finish the Madagascar and I wasn't able to finish the cup from Thomas Haas. But there were so many that were rich, it got hard to tell the difference.

To sum up, we love hot chocolate and love being in a place that holds a hot chocolate festival every year. Still, my favorite year round hot chocolate is found at Mink Chocolates where they offer the best milk and dark hot chocolate around in my opinion. 

Mind vs. Body

Last weekend I pushed myself a little too hard. On Friday I had some great hot chocolate with a friend and directly from there hopped onto the skytrain to about an hour outside of the city to see some friends. We got back pretty late and then I got up early the next morning to walk to sea wall with a friend. As beautiful as it was, I was already starting to feel the effects of pushing myself and talking significantly more than usual. After walking, I had a couple of hours to rest, but were really spent just standing in a hot shower trying to warm myself up. I headed out to meet a friend for coffee and afterwards met up with other friends to go try some more hot chocolate for the festival going on. Then dinner. Then home.

Then, I realized I was done. I started feeling the effects of all of this going and going and took naps for the rest of the weekend and through all of Monday. When you think about taking the time to nap, it feels like a waste. I felt awful for falling behind on taking care of the house and my fitbit hit an all time low on how many steps I took for the day. But after multiple long naps, I felt so much better.

Sometimes, our bodies and our minds are opposing forces. I felt so lazy for sleeping all day, but in actuality that rest is exactly what my body needed. It seems like a simple thought, but it reminded me that our minds don't always know what is best. We often think we understand and are adamant that we know what is best when it can turn out to be the opposite.  

Tig Notaro

Last night was a pretty huge night for me. I got to see one of my favorite women in comedy perform and got to meet her afterward. We already have her "Live" album, which I highly recommend, so, we picked this up. Unfortunately, it wasn't until we were on our way home that we realized we don't own any sort of CD player.